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Big business makes Russia's flesh creep
The International Centre for Medicinal Leeches breeds the slug-like creatures for doctors and beauty treatments. Women will pay big money for eye cream manufactured from them, and it is believed Moscow gangsters reluctant to go to hospitals with bullet wounds are among those who visit private clinics where leeches are used to clean up messy injuries. Gennadi Nikonov, whose business now turns over £20m a year, said: "It always has been a normal reaction for someone to think leech and go ‘yuck’, but the tide is turning. There is a worldwide trend to use them in all forms of medicine and cosmetics. There are many mysteries of this creature yet to unravel." The leech has 60 kinds of proteins which can improve the immune system and reduce inflammation. And now, with contracts in Ukraine and France, the eye cream made from dead leeches could turn into a £10m industry within 18 months. The cream, called Antonia, is currently selling 500,000 units a year. Two million jars have been ordered by an American importer based in Dallas, Texas.
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