How Bacon Can Save You From Flesh-Eating Parasites

“Nah, I ain’t Jewish, I just don’t dig on swine, that’s all.” —Jules Winnfield explaining why he doesn’t eat bacon, Pulp Fiction (1994)

In A Nutshell

Bacon therapy might sound delicious, but it’s actually pretty nasty. The treatment involves doctors placing strips of greasy meat over human tissue infested with parasitic larvae. If all goes according to plan, the bacon fat either smothers the maggots or lures the worms to the surface in hopes of a snack.

The Whole Bushel

Bacon is one of the greatest success stories of our time. Once considered filthy and rejected by the likes of Moses, Mohammad, and Jules Winnfield, this pork product has become a pop culture phenomenon. It’s shown up in every form and fashion imaginable, from milkshakes to deodorant to . . . medical treatments. Doctors are now helping patients with a bizarre remedy known as “bacon therapy,” but it has nothing to do with pigging out and everything to do with smothering flesh-eating parasites.

The procedure originated in Central America where locals have to deal with bot flies, particularly nasty insects that lay eggs in their human hosts. When victims feel the larvae wriggling under their skin, they stuff little chunks of meat into the punctum, the holes that allow the little monsters to breathe. With their flesh snorkel plugged up, the larvae have no choice but to crawl to the surface. Or sometimes the little beasts get a whiff of the meat and decide to have a snack, thus vacating their human hiding places.

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This unappetizing procedure recently made its way to the US where doctors discovered bacon’s effectiveness in combating the larvae of the notorious screwworm fly. This monstrous creature lays hundreds of eggs in open wounds, and its offspring are bristly, tusked worms from hell that grow up to 2 centimeters (0.8 in) long. Fortunately for Americans, screwworm flies were eradicated by the US Agricultural Office, but tourists who visit South American countries might end up on the fly’s hit list. For example, in 2007, a young Connecticut girl returned from her Colombian vacation with an extremely painful swelling in her scalp. Doctors investigated and found she was hosting a parasite party, and they decided to treat the infection with bacon. The fat would draw out all the screwworms whereas oils and larvicides would leave creepy-crawly corpses under the skin. The strips worked like a charm, and three hours later, the doctors removed 142 larvae from the girl’s head, proving that bacon is much more than an Internet obsession. Now, who’s hungry?

Show Me The Proof

Smithsonian: In Bacon Therapy, the Meat Isn’t for You: It’s for the Bugs Eating Your Skin
Discover Magazine: The Special Brand of Horror that is the New World Screwworm