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    Hirudotherapy is often used successfully in modern medicine, especially in plastic and reconstructive surgery. However, Aeromonas infections are the most common complications of post-operative leech application. Hence, prophylactic antibiotic administration is recommended before and during leech therapy. It has been confirmed that patient safety and achieving the desired therapeutic effect depend mainly on the microbiologic purity of the animals used. The aims of this study were to find a safe and practical way to eradicate symbiotic Aeromonas spp. occuring in the intestine of Hirudo verbana. Leeches were fed artificially with 1.5 mL of sterile defibrinated sheep blood supplemented with ciprofloxacin (CIP) or cefotaxime (CTX), at bacteriostatic concentrations of 0.2 mcg/mL or 1.5 mcg/mL, and bactericidal concentrations of 20 mcg/mL or 50 mcg/mL, respectively. Bacteria were isolated from the leech intestines before and after feeding at different time intervals: 1, 7, 14, 21, and 28 d. Biochemical identification of bacterial isolates from water samples and intestines of H. verbana using the API-NE20 test showed that A. veronii biovar sobria was predominant. Bacteria belonging to the genus Aeromonas were detected in all control leeches. The results showed that optimum eradication of bacteria from leech intestines was obtained using 20 mcg/mL of CIP and 50 mcg/mL of CTX, which decreased the number of Aeromonas spp. to undetectable levels for two weeks after feeding in all treated leeches. A statistically significant reduction in the number of bacterial colonies (p<0.0001) was observed in leeches treated with bacteriostatic concentrations of CIP or CTX; no bacterial growth was found on the plates after only seven days of feeding with antibiotics. All water samples in which the leeches were kept before treatment were contaminated with Aeromonas spp., whereas these samples were negative after antibiotic feeding of animals. All leeches were ready to take a blood meal after treatment, suggesting the possibility of using ciprofloxacin-treated or cefotaxime-treated leeches instead of chemoprophylaxis in patients undergoing hirudotherapy.


    Agata Litwinowicz, Joanna Blaszkowska. Preventing infective complications following leech therapy: elimination of symbiotic Aeromonas spp. from the intestine of Hirudo verbana using antibiotic feeding. Surgical infections. 2014 Dec;15(6):757-62

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    PMID: 24897173

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