Monday, January 11, 2010

Industrial Leech Husbandry

A recent video piece from Reuters showcases the "International Leech Center" in Udelnaya, outside of Moscow. Alas, and uncritically, the piece gives voice to the local belief (and one that prevailed in European medicine the 1800s) that leeches are a cure-all. Among other things, we are told that they "boost the body's immune system" and "the level of endorphins". I can't find any scientific evidence of (or even studies on) the latter. And while it is true that leeches can induce an immune response, it typically is not a pleasant one. My own exposure to North American medicinal leeches induces what appears to be a delayed-type immune response leading to massive swelling in the afflicted extremity, peaking about 72 hrs after the bite.

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