Do-It-Yourself medicinal maggot laboratory development

Development of the Production Manual and User Manuals

The procedures and methods described in the Production Manual and related User Manuals are based on a considerable body of scientific literature. The challenge was to ensure that existing best practice in fly husbandry and medicinal maggot production is translated safely into the low-resource environment. The chosen materials, methods and procedures needed to be simple, cheap, and perform well for the user and the flies, and produce high-quality medicinal maggots.

In the absence of access to conflict-affected communities, we collaborated with citizen scientists to co-develop practical solutions and validate via user testing, whether our initial assumptions regarding feasibility are correct. Thirty Grade 9 and 10 students from four Queensland high schools participated in a Grand Challenge program coordinated by the Queensland Virtual STEM Academy. In the first instance, we scoped a simplified production process and drafted illustrated guidance (infographics) to communicate the general principles of fly breeding and medicinal maggot production. Guided by these instructions, the students designed and built fly cages, maggot rearing setups, a clean workbench and incubation containers for disinfected fly eggs.

They successfully bred flies and achieved good disinfection outcomes, thus demonstrating the feasibility of lay persons being able to produce medicinal maggots in isolated communities. Of course, there were many mistakes on the way and some confusion over the draft infographics provided. The difficulties encountered provided rich learning for MedMagLabs to improve our methods and instructional material. The result is a detailed text-based Production Manual and a set of richly illustrated User Manuals that are highly accessible even to people with learning difficulties or from linguistically diverse backgrounds.

A paper describing the MedMagLabs collaboration with citizen scientists and the QVSA has been submitted to the journal of Citizen Science: Theory and Practice and a more comprehensive paper focusing on the overall DIY-Lab development is also in preparation.

The work conducted by the citizen scientists and in the MedMagLabs laboratory at Griffith University showed that when the suggested methods and processes are followed, materials used for the disinfection and preparation of medicinal maggots can be successfully sterilised. Likewise high levels of sterility were achieved when medicinal maggots were disinfected with 0.5% NaOCl. However, we were not able to completely eliminate contamination of eggs and young medicinal maggots in all samples tested. This is partly explained by the extremely high standard of testing we employed, according to Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration guidelines (TGA 2006), compared to other research that uses less sensitive sterility testing methods (Limsopatham et al. 2017, Sherman and Wyle 1996). Moreover, it is now well established that medicinal flies carry microorganisms inside their bodies throughout all life stages from egg to adult and that these are in all likelihood symbiotic and beneficial to the fly and patient – supporting wound debridement and infection control (Maleki-Ravasan et al. 2020). Stay tuned for a full discussion of our results and the safety of our DIY-Lab innovation in the peer reviewed literature. To conclude:

Sterility testing results obtained and our current understanding of fly microbial ecology and chronic wound infection suggest that the methods described in the MedMagLabs DIY-Lab Manuals allow isolated communities to produce medicinal maggots that are safe and efficacious for the treatment of wounds already colonised by a multitude of harmful microbes.



  •  Maleki-Ravasan, N., Ahmadi, N., Soroushzadeh, Z., Raz, A. A., Zakeri, S. & Dinparast Djadid, N. 2020. New Insights Into Culturable and Unculturable Bacteria Across the Life History of Medicinal Maggots Lucilia sericata (Meigen) (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Frontiers in Microbiology, 11
  • Sherman, R. A. & Wyle, F. A. 1996. Low-cost, low-maintenance rearing of maggots in hospitals, clinics, and schools. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 54, 38-41.
  • TGA 2006. TGA guidelines for sterility testing of therapeutic goods. Australian Government, Therapeutic Goods Administration.
  • Limsopatham, K., Khamnoi, P., Sukontason, K. L., Boonyawan, D., Chaiwong, T. & Sukontason, K. 2017. Sterilization of blow fly eggs, Chrysomya megacephala and Lucilia cuprina, (Diptera: Calliphoridae) for maggot debridement therapy application. Parasitology Research, 116, 1581-1589.

(CC BY 4.0) Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge content is provided under creative commons license CC BY 4.0. This applies specifically to the banner image and page text. The Production Manual and User Manuals are published under a CC BY-ND license. The copyright for content on other pages of this site will vary.