Demand from French hospitals ensures healthy trade in leeches

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AUDENGE, France (Reuters) - French hospitals have long been using leeches to prevent blood clots after surgery and their use looks set to expand as scientists say the animal could in future be used to treat problems including rheumatism and osteoarthritis.

For the last 23 years, Brigitte Latrille has been cultivating leeches in her laboratory near Bordeaux, and says she is doing a roaring trade.

“In France, we’re getting orders from all the hospitals with plastic surgery centers, whether it’s Marseilles, Strasbourg or others such as the CHU hospital in Bordeaux,” she said.

At Bordeaux’s CHU hospital, Professor Philippe Pelissier explained how the leeches are used - mainly to prevent blood clots arising after plastic surgery.

“The principle is simple: after the repair of a finger it is necessary that the blood does its work, and for that it must be pushed out by the venous network. The leech allows one to do this by evacuating excess blood,” he said.

Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky