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FDA Considers Increased Regulation Of Leeches, Maggots

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BURLINGTON, N.C. — Leeches and maggots are the last things most people want to see, especially in a hospital. However, the Food and Drug Administration is considering more regulatory control over who supplies them and how they are used.

Lisa Darmo, of Carolina Biological Supply, said special leeches are for medical use only. They are imported from England and shipped to hospitals across the country.

"We serve science educators from elementary grades to the university level," said Lisa Darmo, of Carolina Biological Supply. "The leeches that we sell, the medical leeches, are raised in a laboratory with filtered, highly filtered, water under the cleanest possible conditions."

The leeches are used in microvascular surgery to re-attach body parts. As surgeons reconnect arteries, some stagnant blood builds up. Doctors then attach the leeches to those areas.

"Without blood exiting, without blood egressing, then the part that we reattach or transplant is in jeopardy of not surviving," said Duke plastic surgeon Dr. Scott Levin.

Levin does not use leeches often, but he is glad they are available. He does not use medical maggots, but he has seen the job they do in cleaning hard-to-heal wounds.

The Food and Drug Administration allows the use of both, but may step regulation up a notch. Suppliers would have to meet certain requirements which could limit their use.

Leeches used in medicine today have a special natural blood thinner that helps the wound bleed more freely.


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