Medicinal Leech

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Medicinal Leech


(Hirudo medicinalis), an annelid of the class Hirudinea. Average body length, 12 cm.

The dorsal side of the medicinal leach is greenish, with orange stripes and black spots. The gullet has three toothed mandibles bordered by salivary ducts. The medicinal leech inhabits fresh waters in central and southern Europe and the Middle East. It feeds on the blood of large mammals that enter the watering places where it is found. The saliva of the leech contains hirudin, an anticoagulant, which causes the wounds inflicted by the mandibles to bleed for a long time. Medicinal leeches are used for therapeutic bloodletting and, in modern medicine, in the treatment of thrombophlebitis, hypertension, and prestroke conditions.


Ivanov, A. V. Promyslovye vodnye bespozvonochnye. Moscow, 1955. Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968.


References in periodicals archive ?
GREEN SCENE Lynne Allbutt Medicinal leeches feed on blood and are still used following certain types of surgery, if the flow of blood through the veins is restricted.
It was the third time surgeons at Albany Medical Center Hospital chose to combine modern, high-tech microsurgery and the centuries-old use of medicinal leeches to save a sliced-off finger.
A second article in the same journal, from the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, reports on the use of hirudin, a clot-preventing enzyme produced by medicinal leeches.
Medicinal leeches bred in Wales which have been used by micro-surgeons around the world in radical life saving surgery now have a less philanthropic use, as fish food.
The use of medicinal leeches has become well established in Western medicine in microsurgery for the alleviation of acute venous congestion (Ann.