LOUISE MURRAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY LOUISE MURRAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Ear reattachment of a 5 year old boy who was attacked by a dog. The detached ear was initially sewn back on by surgeons (top row) but become filled with a haematoma (blood accumulation). Medicinal leeches were used to remove the excess blood which prevented the ear from dying. The ear regained normal circulation and the reattachment was completed successfully (lower right). Medicinal leeches (Hirudo medicinalis) are parasites which feed on blood. They attach themselves to the skin using suckers and create a wound with their three sharp jaw plates, which contain over 600 teeth. Their saliva contains hirudin, a chemical which prevents the blood from clotting.
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