Recluse Spider Bite Eats Hole in Young Woman’s Ear

Post 4700

Recluse Spider Bite Eats Hole in Young Woman’s Ear

The case is the first evidence that recluse-spider venom can also destroy ear cartilage, said van Wijk, a co-author of the case report, published last month in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery.

Venom from recluse spiders, including the American brown recluse and its Mediterranean cousin, kills skin and fat with a mixture of chemicals, including substances that break down proteins. The complex nature of the venom makes the bites hard to treat, van Wijk said. A drug called Dapsone has been used, but there is no proof that it works to treat these bites, she added.

Therefore, the recommended treatments for these spider bites are icepacks and painkillers, van Wijk told LiveScience.

In this case, van Wijk and her colleagues removed the dead tissue, and recreated it using cartilage from the woman’s ribs.

Recluse spiders rarely bite people, and when they do, the bites don’t usually inflict serious damage or large scars. Most bites occur when people roll over onto a spider while asleep, or when they put their foot into a shoe in which a recluse is found. It’s difficult to diagnose a brown-recluse-spider bite, and many suspected bites actually come from stinging insects, or are caused by other things, such as bacterial infections.

The restored ear, made in part from cartilage taken from the woman’s ribs.
Credit: Marieke van Wijk et al

The spiders are “not that dangerous,” van Wijk said. “I wouldn’t take precautions, but if one develops a mysterious red-white-and-blue and swollen lesion in summer, in an endemic region, keep the brown recluse in mind,” she added.

In a small minority of cases of recluse bites, the venom can cause a severe immune reaction that destroys blood cells. A recent study found that adrug used to treat unrelated rare blood disorders, eculizumab, may be able to reduce the destruction of blood cells in these patients by 80 percent.

Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us@livescience,Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.

 

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