Medicinal leech sucking blood from human arm

Medicinal leech sucking blood from human arm

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Credit: MARTIN DOHRN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: The medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis sucking blood from a human arm. Leeches are bloodsucking worms with a flattened body which inhabit fresh water and in tropical countries infest damp forests. They are harmful to people and animals to whom they attach by means of a strong mouth adapted to sucking. The saliva of leeches contains an anticlotting substance, called hirudin, which is injected into the wound before sucking blood. Formerly the Hirudo medicinalis was extensively used to treat many illnesses which were ascribed to excess blood. Today, leeches are sometimes used to drain a haematoma from a wound and as a source of the anti-coagulant hirudin.

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Keywords: animal, hirudinea, hirudo medicinalis, invertebrate, invertebrates, leech, medicinal leech, nature, wildlife, zoology

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