After returning from a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, 24-year-old Edinburg resident Daniela Liverani started having persistent nosebleeds. This carried on for weeks, but she assumed they were due to burst blood vessels caused by a motorbike crash two weeks before arriving home. Even as she felt the parasite wriggling up and down her nostril, she thought it was a blood clot. After all, "your initial reaction isn't to start thinking, oh God, there's obviously a leech in my face,” she tells BBC Radio Scotland.
She made the realization last week while showering. With the heat and steam, her nasal passages opened wide, and the parasite started poking out, nearly reaching her bottom lip. "So I could kind of see it out of the corner of my eye but still didn't think it was a worm because it just looked like a blood clot,” she tells BBC. “I jumped out the shower and I unsteamed the mirror and I had a proper good look, and I could see little ridges on him."
Hospital staff removed the leech with tweezers and nose forceps, and they appeared equal parts horrified and intrigued. “It was agony,” she tells Daily Mail, “whenever the doctor grabbed him, I could feel the leech tugging at the inside of my nose.”
It was nearly eight centimeters (around three inches) long, or “about as long as my forefinger and as fat as my thumb,” she tells Daily Record. She and her friend nicknamed the leech Mr. Curly, since it was probably curled up and nestled cozily in her nostrils.
“Daniela could have picked up this leech from water in Vietnam, if she had been swimming,” says Mark Siddal of the American Museum of Natural History. “Or it could have gone in through her mouth, as she was drinking water.”
Liverani took Mr. Curly home that night, but not for keeping. "He's in an Edinburgh City Council bin," she says. "He's probably long gone by now. I boiled him first."
Image: Mick Talbot via Flickr CC BY 2.0