Medicinal leech

Medicinal leech

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Credit: LIZZIE HARPER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis officinalis), artwork. This leech is a parasite that feeds on blood, although it only remains attached to the host during the feeding. It is used in modern medicine to draw blood into transplanted tissues until circulation is established. Its saliva contains hirudin, a chemical that prevents blood from clotting whilst they feed, and for some hours afterwards. A leech will drink 10-15 millilitres (mL) of blood and another 20-50 mL will drip from the wound after the leech has dropped off. A large meal will leave the leech bloated, providing it with enough food to live for six months or more.

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Keywords: animal, artwork, blood sucker, hirudinea, hirudo medicinalis officinalis, illustration, invertebrate, invertebrates, leech, medicinal leech, nature, parasite, wildlife, zoology

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