A 65-year-old woman from Tamil Nadu recently showed up at a private hospital in Bengaluru, with nasal bleeding and swelling in the left eye. Upon investigation, doctors found that the woman had gone completely blind in the left eye. The reason: around 145 maggots were found growing in her nasal cavity and eyeball.
Doctors who treated her tell Happiest Health that the woman, who had been treated for mucormycosis, and Covid-19 one year ago, had undergone surgery to remove dead tissue from her nose, resulting in a wide nasal cavity on the left side. She was in excruciating pain when she was admitted.
Poor personal hygiene was the reason, according to Dr Manjunath MK, consultant ENT surgeon at Sparsh Hospital, who treated her.
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“Flies got into her nose and started laying eggs there. She then developed maggots which started eating away at the flesh.” The woman had been treated for maggots three months before this and the condition recurred due to poor personal hygiene.
On the first day, 110 maggots were removed from the woman’s nose; on the second, around 35 maggots were removed from her left eyeball.
“Those who have already undergone surgeries for mucormycosis should douse their nose regularly to keep it clean. Crusting and foul smell give way for the flies to lay eggs. The nasal cavity must be kept clean at all costs,” Dr Manjunath cautions.
Dr Neetu Modgil, consultant ENT at KIMS Hospitals, Hyderabad, says that maggots or larvae usually tend to grow in cavities — the nose, sometimes the ears and most often in wound cavities (a condition clinically known as myiasis).
Maggot infestation: types and symptoms
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, myiasis usually occurs in three ways:
- From accidentally ingesting larvae.
- From having flies lay eggs near an open wound or sore or through your nose or ears.
- From being bitten by mosquitoes or ticks that harbour larvae.
- Some flies lay their eggs on drying clothes that are hung outside.
As per a study titled ‘Myiasis’, published in the Clinical Microbiology Reviews journal, common symptoms include:
- A movement sensation
- Itching without rashes.
Both Dr Manjunath and Dr Modgil say that such cases are very rare.
“The last time I treated such a case was more than 10 years ago,” says Dr Modgil. “An old woman had come in with maggots in her nose and it was smelling very pungent. Admitting her to the ward with all the others was also difficult because of the foul odour.”
Dr Modgil recalls how when they started cleaning the woman’s nose, maggots started coming onto her face. “It took several sittings to get rid of all the maggots. Her nose looked nearly empty after we removed all the dead tissues. The maggots had already eaten away most of her nose,” she says.
Prevention of maggot infestation
Dr Modgil says that maintaining personal hygiene is the most important step in prevention.
“If the patient has developed a wound anywhere — if he/she is immobile for some reason — proper cleaning and letting the wound heal with antibiotics is important. The tissues must heal,” she says.
She adds that people who are immobile or have limited mobility may be at higher risk of developing myiasis. “In such cases, the caretaker must ensure that all wounds are treated. They must also watch out for any pressure wounds that develop in the back,” she says.
- Maggots develop when flies lay eggs in human cavities and wounds.
- To prevent this, clean and treat all wounds on your body.
- People who have already undergone surgeries for mucormycosis should douse their nose regularly to keep it clean.