Aeromonas hydrophila infections are a recognized complication of the use of medicinal leeches. The authors performed an experiment designed to find a safe and practical way to sterilize the leech gut of pathogenic organisms. Leeches were incubated for a 12-hour period in solutions of antibiotic effective against A. hydrophila. The incubations in the antibiotic solutions failed to eradicate pathogenic bacteria from the gut of the leeches. The authors examined cultures of bacteria isolated from the guts of the commonly used Hirudo medicinalis (European leech) and found a wide variety of pathogenic organisms, A. hydrophila is widely believed to be the most common enteric pathogen, but the authors found A. sobria more frequently in their experiment. They also cultured the guts of the leech H. michaelseni recently used clinically in South Africa. A. caviae was the most common pathogen encountered in these leeches. A. caviae and A. sobria cause a spectra of disease similar to A. hydrophila. The authors endorse the current recommendation that all patients who have leech therapy for congested flaps or replants receive broad-spectrum prophylactic antibiotics. This appears to be the safest and simplest way to prevent leech-related infections.
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