Nose-dwelling leech

 Media Images 47652000 Jpg  47652999 Leech
Researchers have discovered a species of leech that has a "particularly unpleasant habit of infesting humans," most notably in people's noses. The team of scientists published their study of this animal in in the Public Library of Science. The "clinical presentations" are not for the faint-of-heart. From PLoS:
A new genus and species of leech from Perú was found feeding from the nasopharynx of humans. Unlike any other leech previously described, this new taxon has but a single jaw with very large teeth. Phylogenetic analyses of nuclear and mitochondrial genes using parsimony and Bayesian inference demonstrate that the new species belongs among a larger, global clade of leeches, all of which feed from the mucosal surfaces of mammals.

This new species, found feeding from the upper respiratory tract of humans in Perú, clarifies an expansion of the family Praobdellidae to include the new species Tyrannobdella rex n. gen. n.sp., along with others in the genera Dinobdella, Myxobdella, Praobdella and Pintobdella. Moreover, the results clarify a single evolutionary origin of a group of leeches that specializes on mucous membranes, thus, posing a distinct threat to human health.

"Tyrannobdella rex N. Gen. N. Sp. and the Evolutionary Origins of Mucosal Leech Infestations" (Thanks, Antinous!)


  1. I’m having trouble squaring the “It lives in your nose,” with “newly-discovered”. I mean, you’d think that would be the kind of thing people would notice right away.

  2. After my initial reaction of “bleeeeaaaauuuuugggghhhhh,” I thought, “well, these must be really small, or else people would know about them…”

    So I followed the link to the article. One of these lovelies, extracted from the nasal regions of a NINE-YEAR-OLD, was around 70 MM LONG (almost 3 inches, metric-challenged fellow Americans).


  3. Raise your hand if you instinctively raised your hand over your nose as you read this.

    /me raises hand..

  4. @ Lobster #4 – You beat me to the “Snot-Leech” punchline. Another great source of deitary protein.

  5. You guys are acting all grossed-out, but I’m seeing a heart-warming Disney/Pixar animated movie about giant snot-eating leeches that live in children’s noses. It practically writes itself …

    1. You have stocked my reserves of non-sequitur humor and nighmare fuel for the day and night, respectively.

  6. That picture actually shows a similar leech, not the new beast — check the caption on Figure 1.

  7. Tyrannobdella rex is my new favorite taxonomical name.

    Wait a second…
    How do people wind up with leeches up their noses?!!!

    From now on, I’m doing at least one shot of tequila per week through a neti pot.

    1. “From now on, I’m doing at least one shot of tequila per week through a neti pot.” I’m with you, Rich!

    2. “How do people wind up with leeches up their noses?!!!”

      Well, I’ll tell you how I ended up with a leech up my nose.

      I was working in the rainforest in the Gillies mountains in northern Queensland, Australia, where thousands of small leeches swarm the ground and the foliage. Usually they start low on your body and work their way up, latching on when things get nice and bare and warm (wear long pants tucked into thick socks in sturdy boots). When you brush against a tree limb with leeches on it, they can start on your arms, shoulders, neck (wear long sleeves, light colored clothing, and a hat). Sometimes you can sweep the web of your palm between thumb and index along your neck from clavicles to chin and pull three, four leeches off yourself. Sometimes you leech check when you’re back in the field house and pull them from your belly button, your testicles, your inner thigh. Sometimes your cabin mates see them on your forehead and ears before you can find a mirror. These are very small leeches (small like the cleanly trimmed semicircle of a thumbnail clipping).

      When you brush your face through the foliage, a leech might be lucky enough to start on your cheek, your upper lip – and because it is raining and you are muddy you do not notice. You feel a tickle on your nose and rub your nose along the back of your hand, sweeping the leech into your nostril. You feel a tickle in your nostril and you blow and shake your head. After a few minutes you sneak a finger into your nose when the other field biologists aren’t looking to address what you are sure is a big booger. You come back empty fingered, and the leech is up your fucking nose.

      Two hours later you’re back in the field house and you’re taking some time to concertedly blow your nose and WHAM something big fires out of your right nostril and smacks the tissue you’re holding underneath. “There’s that booger,” you think, and because you’re alone in the bathroom and experiencing a sinking feeling, you look at the tissue. And it’s a leech, brown-red and swollen as big as your pinky tip. Alive and so, so happy and well-fed. And then your right nostril begins a fast, bright red, anticoagulant-facilitated seep that requires a tampon up your nose.

      So that’s how it happened to me.

  8. This is nothing compared to the amazon dickfish (candiru) which can swim up your urinary tract.

    the lesson: don’t relieve yourself if you are swimming in the Amazon.

    1. “Sleep with one eye open”? They can get in there too. Have you seen the photo in the linked article above? *shudder*

  9. Ya know, I can think of other places where there are mucous membranes and they’re easier to get at than nostrils…

  10. Leaches eat blood, not mucous! I’ve had about enough of leaches, tics, mosquitoes. Why does it have big teeth? Do most leaches have sphincters lined with teeth in place of a jaw?

    1. beat me to it, Teller.

      “Their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering the victims extremely susceptible to suggestion. Later as they grow, follows madness …and Death.”

  11. sounds eerily familiar to the sharp-toothed snail (that lives inside everyone’s nose). if you stick your finger in, he may bite off your nail. Stick it farther up inside, and he may bite your ring off.
    Stick it all the way, and he may bite the whole darn thing off.

Comments are closed.