Sustained bleeding after a leech bite in the apparent absence of hirudin.Thromb Haemost. 1989 Jun 30; 61(3):366-9.TH
The bite of the medicinal leech bleeds for many hours. For decades it has been assumed that the remarkably prolonged bleeding time of a leech bite wound is due to hirudin, a specific anti-thrombin secreted by the leech during feeding. By measuring haematological parameters of blood oozing from a leech bite wound on 15 different occasions in 7 human volunteers, we demonstrate that the hirudin-sensitive coagulation parameters, including thrombin-induced platelet aggregation, are prolonged for only 15 min, after which they return to normal. This suggests that excess hirudin secreted by the leech is washed out during this period. However, bleeding from the leech bite wound persists for a mean of 10 h. Platelets in smears of exuding blood show no evidence of spontaneous aggregation, but in vitro platelet aggregation can be induced by exogenous collagen at any time. In view of sustained bleeding in the apparent absence of hirudin, attention is focussed onto an unsuspected factor or factors which may better explain the prolonged bleeding phenomenon.