National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Nick Baker lends a hand to a few new friends that may return the favor someday. In "Creepy Healers," Baker enters the quirky world of some of medicine's oldest practitioners - the leech and the maggot - in a surreal journey through time and place to explore their macabre life cycles and reveal how these reviled creatures benefit humans in shocking ways.
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updated 3/29/2004 12:28:24 PM ET 2004-03-29T17:28:24

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Nick Baker enters the quirky world of medicine’s oldest practitioners — the leech and the fly — in a surreal journey through time and place to explore their macabre life cycles and reveal how these reviled creatures benefit humans in shocking ways.

In the darkest recesses of the human psyche there is a place where fear resides in its rawest form, primal and irrational. Within these shadowy passages writhing fiends gorge upon rotted flesh. Multi-brained hermaphrodites with an unquenchable thirst for blood bear 300 razor sharp teeth. Here be monsters. Here be filth. Here be LEECHES and MAGGOTS.

British-born biologist Nick Baker is an enthusiastic naturalist
National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Nick Baker is a naturalist on a mission. For years he has spanned the globe to learn about the natural world and the creatures that inhabit our planet. But his life’s passions are the creatures most people love to hate - spiders, wasps, slugs and centipedes. And Baker lives by his passions. He shares his small country cottage in Devonshire, England, with 26 snakes, 80 tarantulas, assorted scorpions, salamanders, giant hissing cockroaches, African clawed frogs, snails, snapping turtles and three leeches he keeps cool and comfy in the kitchen refrigerator. According to Baker, these creatures get a bad rap, but what people don’t know is that animals like this are marvels of evolutionary achievement.

In “Creepy Healers,” Baker takes on perhaps the most image-challenged beasts in the animal kingdom - the leech and the fly. The green bottle fly, or blowfly, and its voracious maggots, have long been associated with filth and decay. Typhoid, cholera, anthrax, dysentery, worms - these are the calling cards of the fly. One could argue that these animals are more dangerous than the venomous insects we flee from in panic. The European medicinal leech is one of 650 known species of leeches and enjoys the distinct advantage of having 32 brains (31 more than a human!). Armed with an impressive arsenal of teeth, a natural anesthetic and a powerful anticoagulant, a gluttonous leech can ingest up to 10 times its body weight in blood.

From the foggy hollows of Wales to the gloomy practices of medieval barber surgeons and surgical chophouses of the American Civil War, Baker leads viewers on an adventure through the remarkable life cycle of these creatures, explores their sordid history and reveals their medical renaissance as they save life and limb in today’s modern hospitals.

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