The persistence of hepatitis B antigen in the bloodmeal of the potential medicinal leech, Asiaticobdella buntonensis

  • G.B. Wilken
  • C.C. Appleton


The persistence of the hepatitis B virus surface antigen (HBsAg) was used as an index of the survival time of this virus within the gastro-intestinal tract of the potential southern African medicinal leech, Asiaticobdella buntonensis. HBsAg was tested for in blood/faecal material at five intervals over 15 weeks. Samples from both the midgut and the rectum remained positive for the entire test period, although with decreasing strength. The results are compared with reports on other arthropods which indicate increasing antigen persistence with increasing body size. The findings implicate medicinal leeches as mechanical vectors of HBV and possibly of other medically important viruses, and argue against using leeches of suspect or unknown origin in the alleviation of venous congestion in failing microsurgical procedures.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135