Toddler coughs up three-inch leech which had been ‘feeding off them for months’

·3-min read
A three-year-old child had a leech removed from their throat after suffering nose bleeds and coughing for months (Jason Brotherton)
A three-year-old child had a leech removed from their throat after suffering nose bleeds and coughing for months (Jason Brotherton)

A leech who pulled a three-inch leech from the throat of a toddler say they believe it had been living inside and feeding off her for months.

The three-year-old had been suffering a nosebleeds and a cough for three months before she was treated.

The child eventually coughed so hard their mother looked in the back of their throat and spotted the leech.

Dr Jason Brotherton, who saw the child after they were admitted to hospital in Kenya last month, said the leech had likely entered the youngster’s throat when they drank contaminated water.

It would have been much smaller when ingested but ended up growing to about two and a half inches after “feeding” off the child for several months, he said.

Dr Brotherton, who has worked in Kenya for about six years, told The Independent: “It sounds like they had been having some nose bleeding for a while and then chronic coughing for well over three months.

“They checked the haemoglobin and it was very low and then the child started coughing so severely the mother decided to look in the mouth and saw the leech in the back of the throat.

“The nose bleeding is quite a common way these patients present as the leeches stay in the upper airway. If they go down to the stomach acid, it kills them.

“For me personally, this is the very first time I’ve ever seen a leech like this.”

The leech had to be removed from the child’s upper oesophagus via endoscopy but the youngster was released from hospital after four or five days and is expected to make a full recovery.

A photo shared on Twitter by the doctor of the leech lying alongside a ruler appeared to show it was almost three inches long.

The doctor wrote in a post: “Before today, I felt pretty confident that I had encountered most causes of anemia until this was pulled from the upper esophagus of a 3 year old. They've been feeding it for a while. Hb was 3 g/dL.”

He added: “I imagine the leech was ingested several months ago. The patient started with epistaxis that progressed to 3 months of cough.

“They finally coughed so hard that mom saw something in the back of the throat. Had to be removed via endoscopy because it was attached.”

In a follow up the following day, Dr Brotherton said the youngster was recovering well and was expected to be discharged.

“The young one is doing well and going home today,” he wrote. “Thanks everyone who has sent positive thoughts and messages to the family.”

In a similar case last year, a live leech was reportedly pulled from a five-year-old boy’s throat in China after he suffered breathing difficulties and a sore throat for a year.

It is believed the leech may have got inside the youngster’s body after he drank contaminated water.

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