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This domestic spider can liquify your flesh with one bite

Illustration for article titled This domestic spider can liquify your flesh with one bite

To the right: the necrotized ear of a 22-year-old dutch woman who just came from vacation in Italy. To the left: the common spider who liquefied its flesh and cartilague with one bite, a Mediterranean brown recluse. I thought these kind of things only happened in exotic countries but this bastard is everywhere, including the United States.

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According to Wikipedia, the Mediterranean recluse has been "introduced" in Arkansas, Hawaii, Ohio, and the gulf states. But we don't need bloody Eurosnob spiders on vacation to get liquefied flesh and necrotized body parts: this country has its own brown recluse, which can cause exactly the same effect. The American brown recluse's "native range lies roughly south of a line from southeastern Nebraska through southern Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana to southwestern Ohio. In the southern states, it is native from central Texas to western Georgia and north to Kentucky."

The 22-year-old woman went to an Italian hospital after her face and ear started to swell. There they gave her antihistamine—which of course didn't work—and once she got back to the homeland the ear started to rot. It was too late to save it.

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If you are bitten by this thing you are basically screwed if they don't get you in time. And even then you will be at risk. Although you will not die, "the resulting tissue mortification can affect an area as large as several inches and in extreme cases require excising of the wound."

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DISCUSSION

The author writes, "If you are bitten by this thing you are basically screwed if they don't get you in time." It's actually even awesomer than that. There really is no established treatment for brown recluse bites (the antihistamine they gave her really wasn't a bad idea—some of the damage from these bites is a result of your immune system overreacting, which antihistamines help correct) other than palliative care, keeping the wound clean so it doesn't get a secondary infection, and waiting for it to heal (which can take months).

How I know stuff: I'm a pathologist who teaches classes on microbiology and medical entomology at a medical school, and who also had the excellent good fortune to get bitten by a brown recluse a few years ago. The complete photographic history of that bite, with clinical descriptions can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/rachel.l.robso…