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Mechanical transmission by leeches follow up question

Jan 17, 2013

Dear Dr. Lisa, I truly thank you for your response to my question. However, I ought to have clarified that I was not referring to the medicinal use of leeches. Instead, I was talking about being bitten by a leech in the wild, eg while hiking in forests, or swimming in lakes where there are leeches. It is theoretically possible that such mechanical transmission could also occur, right ?.

Replies to older posts in this forum, tended to dismiss the risk of leeches, and deal with them the same as mosquitoes.

I know it's a matter of probability, but say one is walking in a forest in Africa (eg hikers/nature lovers who frequent such places), then that probability increases (beyond the theoretical level), doesn't it ?

Thanks again Dr. Lisa

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is your answer to my original question :

Hello Yes, my opinion is that viruses likely could survive in leeches and would not advice anyone to use them for medicinal purposes unless it is known with certainty to come from controlled breeding and have definitely not been in contact with human or animal pathogens. I am certainly not an expert in this field and if you require more information I would suggest contacting the authors of the study. Take care,


Dear Dr. Lisa,

I found this study (seems from a reputable institution) which claims that leeches can store blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis B or HIV in their gut for months. So if they bite another person and regurgitate the blood (due to application of salt/heat to remove them) can infection occur through mechanical transmission ?.

Can such viruses survive in the leech ?

What are your views on this issue please ?

I believe clarifying it would be of great benefit to many !

This is the study link:

Response from Dr. Hightow-Weidman

Hello there Theoretically sure, likely, no. Would it stop me from hiking or swimming or otherwise enjoying nature in any way shape or form. Heck no. Take care, LHW

Night Sweats and protected sex
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