Saturday, January 17, 2009

Leeches, too




Continuing to ease this blog back into the medical world, here's more about Sri Lanka. I include a report of my visit to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a truly unspoiled region in the southern part of the country. There was lots of wildlife, including this millipede, a hump-nose lizard, a colony of poisonous caterpillars gathered on a tree, and many pretty waterfalls, including the one below called Kakuna Ella.

And then there were the leeches. They lay on the forest floor and propel themselves onto your shoes and ankles as you walk by. If you slow down to knock them off, more join in. Meanwhile, the early arrivals travel upwards to, shall we say, the warmer areas.

So by the time you get home and take off your shoes, you discover blood covered toes and ankles, where the satiated leeches have either dropped off or been crushed inadvertently.

My fellow blogger Ramona Bates discusses the current use of leeches by the medical profession.

For my part, I didn't detect any lasting damage, but I did have a craving for protein after the hike . . .
video

3 comments:

rlbates said...

Enjoying your travel log series. Thanks for the mention.

Paul Levy said...

From a friend:

Interesting creatures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leech

Leeches release both a local anesthetic and a blood thinner when they bite you, which explains why you sometimes can’t feel the bite and why it bleeds a lot more than a normal wound. I think the digestion mechanism is quite interesting – they can break blood down one amino acid at a time to reconstitute the protein that makes up the leech body. They can store blood without spoilage for long periods of time, so they don’t need to feed often. The creatures are hermaphrodites, too. Note that the wiki entry suggests that using salt isn’t necessarily the best way to get them off; using a fingernail slid closely next to the skin is a better approach that’s less likely to release stuff into your bloodstream. I don’t think it really matters with the smaller leeches, though.

Alan said...

Leaches are common in our tropical climate and in the case of Sri Lanka it can be easily located in the tea estates too.I came across brown and black coloured ones there and many times I donated fair amount of blood before noticing them.
In Badulla/Koslanda ,just a walk in the road during a rainy evening can take this parasites to your home unnoticed.