PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) They make your skin crawl just looking at them. Yet more of these critters are feasting on patients everywhere from hospital rooms to therapy session.
Their use is older than the pyramids. They were still saving lives during the war between the states while remaining in stock at high-end apothecaries around New York and Philadelphia.
But rapid advances in medicine sidelined the little blood suckers - rendering them almost primitive. Until modern times presented problems for which science had no prescription. The leech was back in business but on the fringes.
"It came more back into the mainstream in the 70's," Michael Blecker said.
They came back in some operating rooms and cosmetic treatments. More recently, leech therapy appears to be gaining traction at holistic or natural medicine clinics. They are used for treating ailments you may not believe.
"Leeches work like live needle," said Dr. Larkeev.
Vladimir Makaron is only 35 and he races boats, sails, and cruises for a living.
"I'd rather do the natural way," he said.
The natural way is what enticed Neurosurgeon Konstantin Lakeev to hang up his hospital coat and become a certified hirudologist, which is in demand between New York and D.C.
Just don't cotton much to hair, lotion, cologne. Dr. Lakeev says they like a smooth, clean surface to slink and latch on - suck blood - while secreting peptides, proteins, natural blood thinner and other healing properties into your body.
Alcohol causes the critter to release. Regulations mandate they be destroyed when their work is done.
Joliia is beyond relaxed with 3 leeches at her belly button and ankles. Cost is out of pocket priced per leech - small, middle or large.
Penn Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Stephen Kovach says they've got plenty down in the back of the pharmacy - right there in the fridge of one of the world's largest cutting edge medical centers.
"Collecting these leeches. These are bred by a company, specially for medicinal use."
They're just what the doctor orders for cases of amputation and mastectomy.
That's not all, Penn Pharmacy Coordinator Michael Blecker doctors are now ordering maggots case-by-case for wound cleaning.