"I have 35 pet leeches - I use them to treat my mum's arthritis and knee pain"

A woman owns 35 pet leeches and she uses them to treat her mum's arthritis and knee pain. Marie Bailey, 23, started keeping leeches two years ago precipitated by her passion for unconventional pets. She first adopted two Asian buffalo leeches, the second largest species, which can stretch up to 20 centimetres-long. Marie allowed her two adoptees to breed and now she has the 35 pet leeches that she keeps in tanks in her home. Marie feeds the leeches with her own blood and also feeds them on her mother, Luisa Bailey, 60, as a treatment for her arthritis and knee pain. Marie, who lives in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, said: "They're medicinal leeches so when my mum has issues with her knee she feeds them. "She has arthritis in her fingers. "If I feed the leeches on her fingers the pain goes away for three to four months." Leeches have anticoagulant properties, which means they thin the blood and Marie says this could treat many ailments including blood clots and circulation issues. The leeches only need to feed about twice a year, so it isn't a task for Marie to feed them all. Marie explained: "I split them up into groups of about three to four and rotate them. "It stings a bit and is uncomfortable for about 30 seconds but it goes away really quickly." Luisa, a manager at a packing factory, was skeptical at the beginning. But after seeing Marie feed them she realised that it wasn't an issue. Marie said: "I fed my first leeches on myself. I think she saw that and realised that it was completely OK." Marie is aware that most people find the animals unpalatable but she finds them cute and has made it her mission to rehabilitate the animals' image. She added: "It's a bit like having fish. You can't interact with them like cats and dogs, but I do love them. "I guess they're just part of the animal family. "When you know them and you look at their little faces they're quite cute, but I'm aware that they aren't for everyone. "At the end of the day I'd just like people to understand them more and what they can be used for and not see them as horrible monsters."