An Engrossing Tale, Starring Leeches

Tankfuls of leeches are a hospital standby, used occasionally to help ease venous congestion after certain surgeries.

The advent of germ theory had pushed leeches out of medical vogue for a time, until surgeons enlisted ciprofloxacin to stave off Aeromonas bacteria harbored by the leeches. In recent years, though, physicians were amazed to see cipro-resistant Aeromonas emerge.

How did it happen? Research published Tuesday in mBio linked the resistance to a veterinary drug used in poultry. Eric Boodman’s rollicking account features gory talk of leech gut isolates and a leech farmer who speaks of the creepy creatures in “parental tones.”


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