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Does leech bite cause infection?

Answered by: Dr. Shirish Kumar
Consultant Haematologist,
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital,
New Delhi

Q. A leech bit my 5-year-old son last week when we went for a vacation to Kerala. The injured portion bleed for a while, leaving a scar on the stomach. Is a leech bite harmful for my son? Will it cause any infection? Please giuide.

A.  There is no evidence to suggest that leeches transmit any disease. In some cases, there may be irritation and itching after a bite, and rarely, the wound may get infected. There is absolutely no cause for you to worry following a leech bite. And the scar that you have mentioned will disappear in a short time. In fact, even till late 19th century, using leeches to treat illness was a very common practice in medicine (though without any physiologic basis). Today, leeches are used by plastic surgeons to control venous congestion at operative sites and the anticoagulant found in them is used to treat black eyes and ear inflammation.

A.  There is no evidence to suggest that leeches transmit any disease. In some cases, there may be irritation and itching after a bite, and rarely, the wound may get infected. There is absolutely no cause for you to worry following a leech bite. And the scar that you have mentioned will disappear in a short time. In fact, even till late 19th century, using leeches to treat illness was a very common practice in medicine (though without any physiologic basis). Today, leeches are used by plastic surgeons to control venous congestion at operative sites and the anticoagulant found in them is used to treat black eyes and ear inflammation.

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