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Infections from medical leeches.

Infections From Medicinal Leeches

Leeches may soon be out of favor again as a medicinal tool, since recent reports have confirmed that the animals harbor a type of bacterium known to cause potentially serious infections, a Philadelphia doctor has warned. The leech, a type of bloodsucking worm applied to the patient from ancient times through the late 19th century to "treat" local inflammations and then largely abandoned as a therapeutic tool, recently made a comeback in medicine, especially because anticoagulants it secretes aid the drainage of small blood vessels, preventing clots during delicate microsurgery.

But Elias Abrutyn, M.D., of the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Veterans Administration Hospital, has cited recent studies in which leeches were found to contain the bacterium Aeromonas hydrophila which has been reported to be resistant to a number of antibiotics, including most penicillins, streptomycin, and tetracycline. Among those incurring A. hydrophila infections were 20% of microsurgery patients seen by one physician over a three-year period, and a patient upon whom leeches were applied to relieve tissue congestion during a breast reconstruction. (Annals of Internal Medicine 9:1:88.)
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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