Cupped hands holding medicinal leeches

Cupped hands holding medicinal leeches

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Credit: GEOFF TOMPKINSON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Leeches. Cupped hands holding medicinal leeches, Hirudo medicinalis. Medicinal leeches are parasites which drink the blood of animals, including humans. Leech saliva contains hirudin which prevents blood from clotting, and an anaesthetic so that the victim may be unaware that they have been bitten. Leeches were once used to treat illnesses attributed to an excess of blood. In modern medicine they are used for dissolving or draining accumulated blood (a haematoma) and for drawing blood into transplanted tissue until circulation is established. They can also be used as a source of drugs to clear blood clots (anti-coagulants).

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

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