The Diversity of Biotherapeutics: Exploring the Many Animals that Treat Humans

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By Aletha Tippett MD

There was an inquiry a couple months ago for a blog about biotherapy. Biotherapy refers to the use of animals for treatment and therapy for humans. This is a topic of great interest to me and I hope to others. When I was preparing to do maggot therapy on a patient the other week she asked me if I watched Wild Kingdom. I told her no, I live Wild Kingdom. We laughed, but that is somewhat true. I use maggots and leeches routinely and have for ten or more years.

The Scope of Biotherapeutics

Many have heard of maggots and leeches for biotherapy, but there are other biologic agents as well. Honey bees are much in use, and while I don't use them some of my patients do. There are also worms and viral phages, neither of which are available in the U.S. And, of course, the biggest uses in biotherapy worldwide are dogs and horses for therapy.

Who does not know about seeing eye dogs? There are all kinds of therapy dogs and there are even dogs trained to alert their owner of a pending seizure, or blood sugar going out of control. Probably horses are the most widely used animals for therapy, with hippotherapy being practiced everywhere. It tugs at your heart strings to watch disabled children and adults blossom while on a horse.

Biotherapies Used Outside of the United States

Not well known, but wonderfully effective is ichthiotherapy—the use of Gara ruffa fish to eat psoriasis. Currently this is available in Austria and maybe Japan. Canada is working on making this therapy available.

In Mexico you can receive helminth therapy with whipworms for Crohn's disease. I have met someone who had this therapy and they can’t say enough good things about it.

Learning more about biotherapy that is available is interesting and useful. It broadens your perspective about what is possible. The next planned biotherapy conference will be the 9th Conference to be held in Malaysia in 2015. The previous conference was held in Los Angeles in 2010. I would encourage your attendance because there is so much to learn and so many wonderful people to meet.

About The Author
Aletha Tippett MD is a family medicine and wound care expert, founder and president of the Hope of Healing Foundation®, family physician, and international speaker on wound care.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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