Malaysia warns against treatments using leeches

PHOTO: Malaysia warns against treatments using leeches

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry yesterday advised the public to stay away from traditional healing treatments using leeches as it may cause bacterial infection.

Director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the ministry had not approved such treatment centres as the effectiveness was not proven.

"The ministry strictly does not allow this treatment method as there is no scientific evidence to prove the treatment works," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Dr Hasan said stern action will be taken against traditional healing practitioners who continue to risk the public's health. He was responding to claims of a skin specialist at An-Nur Hospital, Dr Saadiah Sulaiman, that the leech treatment exposed the public to a dry cough.

She claimed that to date, two patients had sought follow up treatments for the illness at the hospital after trying out the leech treatment.

Dr Hasan added that the perception of many that leeches suck dirty blood was also wrong as there was no such thing as dirty blood in medical terms.

"Infectious disease may spread through blood when the same leech is used on another patient."

Dr Hasan said the treatment process could transmit dangerous diseases related to blood flow from one individual to another besides slowing the blood clot process.

"This may lead to constant bleeding with an open wound giving space for more serious problems."