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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A case of mistaken identity for 'medicinal leeches'

Medicinal leeches 'are the wrong kind' - Telegraph


"Scientists have discovered that a case of mistaken identity means that "medicinal leeches" which have been used by doctors for centuries are not officially approved for medicine.

As well as the doctors who use them today in plastic surgery, numerous researchers who have studied the medicinal leech have also been using a different kind of blood sucker from the one they thought, according to a DNA study that now calls their findings into question.

Hirudo medicinalis, described by the father of taxonomy Linnaeus in 1758, has long been considered the sole European medicinal leech. Yet, as early as 1827, at least five additional species were recognised. Now a study of their DNA has provided the first conclusive way to tell them apart."

"Their analysis clearly showed that the commercial and laboratory specimens were not Hirudo medicinalis, as they were labelled, but rather Hirudo verbana.

This carries significant regulatory implications, said the team: Hirudo verbana has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration - as was thought to have occurred in 2004 - and it has no special conservation status, unlike Hirudo medicinalis, which is still afforded protection under various conservation conventions."