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Effect of ale, garlic, and soured cream on the appetite of leeches

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 24 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1689
  1. Anders Baerheim, senior lecturera,
  2. Hogne Sandvik, research fellowa
  1. a Division for General Practice, University of Bergen, Ulriksdal 8C, N-5009 Bergen, Norway
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Baerheim.

    The medicinal leech has regained some of its lost popularity by its present use in microsurgery. Sometimes, however, the leeches refuse to cooperate properly. To overcome this problem doctors in the 19th century used to immerse leeches in strong beer before applying them to the patient.1 In the 1920s a deaconess experienced that a little soured cream on the skin would encourage the leeches' feeding behaviour,2 and we recently found that they seem to be attracted by garlic.3 We designed a study to evaluate the effect of these remedies.

    Materials, methods, and results

    Six leeches were dipped briefly in one of two different types of beer (Guinness stout or Hansa bock) or in water (control) before being placed on the forearm of one of us (HS). We measured the time from when the leech touched the skin until HS felt it bite. Each leech …

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