Hirudin is the active anticoagulant obtained from the leech, and is now produced by recombinant technology. It is the most potent and specific known inhibitor of thrombin. It inactivates thrombin by blocking the substrate binding groups following the formation of a 1:1 stoichiometric complex. All proteolytic functions of the enzyme are blocked, as is the activation of factors V, VIII, XIII, and the binding of thrombin to platelets. Heparin works indirectly, requires antithrombin as a cofactor, is not effective against thrombin that is already bound to the fibrin clot, and can be inactivated by PF4 or plasma proteins. Heparin therapy also leads to HIT in 5-15% of patients. Conversely, hirudin is the prototypical direct inhibitor of thrombin. It is a more potent anticoagulant and affects clot-bound thrombin, does not require any cofactors, and is not inactivated by PF4 or plasma proteins. Research has suggested that hirudin my provide a small advantage over heparin in situations such as acute coronary syndromes, but cost-benefit analyses are still needed. Hirudin levels can be determined chromogenically using substrate S-2366™ or S-2238™.