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FDA OKs Medicinal Use of Leeches

They sop up pooled blood

WEDNESDAY, June 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Leeches, a medical tool for thousands of years, are poised for a comeback. On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the commercial marketing of the blood-sucking, fresh-water animals for medicinal purposes.

Leeches can help heal skin grafts by removing blood pooled under the graft and restore blood circulation in blocked veins by removing pooled blood.

Leeches have been used as an alternative treatment to blood-letting and amputation for several thousand years. They reached their height of medicinal use in the mid-1800s. Today, they are used throughout the world as tools in skin grafts and reattachment surgery, the FDA said, in announcing its decision.

Ricarimpex SAS, a French firm, becomes the first company to request and receive FDA clearance to market leeches as medical devices. The firm has been breeding leeches for 150 years.

In weighing the company's application, the FDA said it reviewed the published literature on the use of leeches in medicine and evaluated safety data provided by the firm. The agency also reviewed information on how the company's leeches are fed, their environment, and the personnel who handle them.

Visit the FDA to learn more.

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