A three year old girl She went to her mother for medical help because of anemia that turned out to be caused by a leech in her esophagus.

This introduction seems to be taken from a horror story. However, it is totally true. Has counted it on Twitter the doctor who treated the little girl in a Kenyan health center, Jason Brotherton.

The publication also tells of the patient’s symptoms and how it was the mother who detected the leech during her daughter’s coughing attack. No doubt the animal had been feeding well on blood in recent months. If not, the woman would not have seen her so easily through the throat of the girl. Luckily, the story had a happy ending, as the leech was successfully removed by endoscopy. However, it highlights the problem posed by low health in the access to water and food in some countries, like Kenya.

The effects of a leech on the esophagus

Neither the girl nor the mother know exactly when the little girl was able to ingest the leech. However, it can be suspected from the moment in which the symptoms began. The first thing the mother detected was a nose bleed, followed by a persistent cough lasting three months.

The cough was so intense that in one of the attacks, the woman saw the leech appear from her daughter’s throat. When attending to her, the doctor learned that the animal must have been feeding on the little girl’s blood, hence she had a very advanced anemia, with hemoglobin levels of 3 g / dL. The normal levels for a child his age they are between 11 and 14 g / dL, so they were alarmingly low.

The girl’s first symptom was a nosebleed

Of course, the girl could not swallow well either and this made the anemia even greater. All this led to the decision to remove the leech from her esophagus as soon as possible, but it was stuck, so the patient had to be subjected to a endoscopy.

The intervention went smoothly and the girl was able to come home the next day, fully recovered and with an unpleasant story to tell.

When bloodletting cured everything, including anemia

For thousands of years, leeches were considered the panacea of ​​medicine. The first indications of its therapeutic use come from the Indian works of Ayurveda, Babylonian archaeological remains and the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs of the 18th dynasty. Furthermore, they are referred to in both the Bible and the Qur’an.

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However, the first well-recorded documents indicating their use come from the 3rd century BC. In general, bloodletting, consisting of withdrawing blood from some areas of the body thanks to the suction of these animals, had all kinds of uses. Or so it was believed. They were used to treat pain, inflammation and even mental illness. It was thought that the evil was extracted along with the blood that was withdrawn. And, in fact, the technique became so popular that during the 18th and 19th centuries Anyone could use them at home if they lived in Europe, as they began to be sold in pharmacies on this continent.

They became so famous that the species used in medicine fell into danger of extinction

They reached such a boom that the species most used in medicine, Hirudo medicinalis, fell in danger of extinction. Thanks to their conservation efforts, the situation has improved somewhat for them and today they are classified as near threatened on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

But, unfortunately, its illegal traffic is the order of the day; Well, despite the advances in medicine, there are still those who trust the leech to treat a multitude of pathologies. It is true that an agent anticoagulant detected in your saliva It is used in some places in the medical field to prevent blood from jam while generating new connections between vessels in reconstructive surgeries. But everything else lacks the slightest bit of scientific evidence.

On the other hand, there are those who have them as pets and feed them with their own blood. But we better draw a thick veil on that issue and return to the subject of hirudotherapy. The fact is that its promoters defend that leeches can be useful to treat a multitude of conditions, including anemia. However, the Kenyan girl who had to have a leech removed from her esophagus may not think so. As much as it is done in a controlled environment, stay away from leeches and trust advances in medicine. That they are for something.