Not every leech is suitable for hirudotherapy. Only leeches bred specially for this purpose in isolated laboratory conditions, which had not even the slightest contact with the external environment and were fed in a controlled manner, may be attached to the body.
A species of leeches suitable for hirudotherapy
Medicinal leeches include many different species that are used for treatment around the world. In Poland, Hirudo Verbana medicinal leeches are the most popular for a simple reason – this species, unlike others, is not under species protection, so you do not need a permit from the Ministry of Environmental Protection to purchase it.
Leeches from a laboratory breeding
Specially developed and properly optimized methods of breeding medical leeches in isolated conditions guarantee their high quality and safety of use in hirudotherapy. When the leeches reach the right size, they are starved for about 6 months. After that they go on sale. Following strict rules for breeding leeches in the laboratory makes them healthy and bacteria-free. Applying leeches of unknown origin can have unpleasant consequences. In this way, instead of improving our health, we can even make it worse. There is a high risk of disease transmission or infection.
Certificate confirming the origin of leeches
When buying leeches, it is worth asking for a certificate confirming their origin. A reliable company that has nothing to hide will easily issue a guarantee that the leeches were bred in compliance with all safety rules and did not have a contact with the outside world.
Leeches without certificates pose a health risk
There is a whole lot of medical leeches on the market from illegal fishing from the natural environment or breeding in open water reservoirs. Such leeches are often a potential source of infection with viral, bacterial, parasitic and zoonotic diseases. Applying them to a person can also cause poisoning.
How to deal with purchased leeches?
Laboratory leeches are usually delivered in foil bags filled with hydrogel. Hydrogel is a special agent thanks to which the transport of leeches can take place in safe conditions. As soon as you receive the leeches, they should be removed from the bag and placed in a glass or plastic container 2/3 filled with water. The container with leeches should be tightly closed, but you must ensure that air has free access to it. For this purpose, holes should be made in the lid, preferably with a pin. Finally, the container can be covered with a still air-permeable material, e.g. gauze.
Chlorine-free water is suitable for keeping leeches, as it is harmful to them. Therefore, before flooding the leeches with water, it is best to add a special preparation to it that will adjust the composition of the water to the requirements of the medical leech. Such a preparation can be ordered together with leeches.
The water for leeches should be changed every 3-4 days to prevent it from becoming dirty. No more than 20 leeches per liter of water should be placed. The optimal temperature for keeping leeches is between 5°C and 20°C. So you can safely store them in the fridge.
What to do with leeches after the treatment?
One leech can only be used for a treatment for one person – this is a rule that must be strictly respected. Otherwise, disease transmission could occur. In addition, leeches should be used only once, and after the treatment, they should be killed in 7-40% alcohol, and then disposed of in a special reprocessing plant.