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Thread: Poisonous Spider Bite Database?

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    Poisonous Spider Bite Database?

    Hi all. Newbie here so I apologize if I post in the wrong place. I was wondering if there is a national or state level database of documented poisonous spider bites. I have a friend who claims that he knew someone in the pittsburgh PA area that was bitten by a brown recluse and fell into a coma. The spider was found so I would say this is a documented case but i'd like to confirm it. I know that BR's are not endemic to PA so this is a VERY rare case I am sure, so there must be some documentation somewhere about it. Thanks for your help!
    Jen Gardner - Mission Viejo CA (Black Widow country)

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    Moderator Ungoliant's Avatar
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    I would be skeptical of that story.

    When you say that the "spider was found," was it caught in the act of biting, or was it found later? And if it was caught in the act, was it identified by an expert (not a physician)?

    Medical records of spider bites -- particularly brown recluse bites -- can be very inaccurate due to the propensity of physicians (often from states where brown recluses don't even live) to mis-diagnose wounds as "bites" just by looking at them. See Rick Vetter's "Causes of Necrotic Wounds other than Brown Recluse Spider Bites" and "Quotes From Medical Authority."
    Helpful Links: ID Guide ID Resources Species Guides FAQ Spider Bites Glossary

    "There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance." --Neil deGrasse Tyson

  3. #3
    I completely agree! My understanding is that the spider was found later, not in the act of biting. I have no idea if the specimen was ID'd by an entomologist but i suspect not. With it being so rare you would think that it would have even made the newspaper but i can find no record of it. Just trying to confirm a very suspect story!! Thanks!

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    It is times like these that I am so tempted to have a brown recluse bite me to see what it really would do, but my intelligence slightly over weighs my curiosity. I am really wondering if it is even possible for their venom to create bad wounds, rare case or not.

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    Moderator Ungoliant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lisaayres View Post
    It is times like these that I am so tempted to have a brown recluse bite me to see what it really would do, but my intelligence slightly over weighs my curiosity. I am really wondering if it is even possible for their venom to create bad wounds, rare case or not.
    I recall reading once that there is still some debate over whether brown recluse venom, itself, causes necrotic wounds, or whether such wounds result from a secondary bacterial infection.

    If anyone knows, it's probably Rick Vetter.
    Helpful Links: ID Guide ID Resources Species Guides FAQ Spider Bites Glossary

    "There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance." --Neil deGrasse Tyson

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    Poison Control Centers database

    There is this annual report:

    http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/Portals/0/2...l%20Report.pdf

    A lot of data to wade through, but data about spider bites (and many, many other hazards) is in there. Widows and recluses are singled out by species.


    Quote Originally Posted by jengardner1 View Post
    Hi all. Newbie here so I apologize if I post in the wrong place. I was wondering if there is a national or state level database of documented poisonous spider bites. I have a friend who claims that he knew someone in the pittsburgh PA area that was bitten by a brown recluse and fell into a coma. The spider was found so I would say this is a documented case but i'd like to confirm it. I know that BR's are not endemic to PA so this is a VERY rare case I am sure, so there must be some documentation somewhere about it. Thanks for your help!
    Jen Gardner - Mission Viejo CA (Black Widow country)

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    Administrator Mandy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ungoliant
    I would be skeptical of that story.

    When you say that the "spider was found," was it caught in the act of biting, or was it found later? And if it was caught in the act, was it identified by an expert (not a physician)?

    Medical records of spider bites -- particularly brown recluse bites -- can be very inaccurate due to the propensity of physicians (often from states where brown recluses don't even live) to mis-diagnose wounds as "bites" just by looking at them. See Rick Vetter's "Causes of Necrotic Wounds other than Brown Recluse Spider Bites" and "Quotes From Medical Authority."
    Great info there!

    Also, just since a Poison Control Center PDF was linked to, I'll attach a paper that will make you not want to pay attention to their spider bite stats because they are severely misrepresented. There are various papers out there that have snippets of data but there is no *accurate* master database of documented spider bites that I know of. Most lists kept by medical authorities, poison control centers, etc, are likely to be much more misleading than they are helpful or accurate (because of the reasons Ungoliant mentioned). Rick Vetter has been compiling data on all sorts of verified spider bite cases for many years... eventually I'm sure it will be published (and it will be accurate since he does not include "suspected" bites, only verified ones).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Spider bites, caveats in interpreting poison control centre data in epidemiology studies, Vetter.pdf  

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    Moderator Ungoliant's Avatar
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    Thanks, Mandy! I will enjoy reading that paper.
    Helpful Links: ID Guide ID Resources Species Guides FAQ Spider Bites Glossary

    "There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance." --Neil deGrasse Tyson

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    Always good to hear from Rick Vetter. I've relied on his "if you didn't see it, don't call it a spider" guideline for years. I cited the poison control pdf because I recently used it for another reason: to point out that black widow spiders aren't "deadly." As in, nobody has died from a black widow bite in all the years this national database has been compiled. In that view, the national database was a bracing dose of skepticism for everybody who thinks spiders are killing and maiming left and right. Quite right about the brown recluse hyping (hobo spiders, too).

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    Moderator Ungoliant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CFLindsey View Post
    I recently used it for another reason: to point out that black widow spiders aren't "deadly." As in, nobody has died from a black widow bite in all the years this national database has been compiled.
    Heh. Rod Crawford has been fighting that battle for years.

    Myth: Some spiders are deadly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Crawford
    There is no spider species anywhere that can properly be called "deadly." Obviously, a few people have died from spider venom, but I know of no species anywhere on earth capable of causing death in humans in as much as 10% of cases, even if untreated. If the person bitten obtains medical aid, death from genuine spider bite ("mystery bites" falsely blamed on spiders don't count) is almost unknown in North America and a decided rarity worldwide. See the next section for a more detailed account of Australian and Brazilian spiders. "Deadly" spiders that can incapacitate you in minutes? Only in the movies!

    Myth: But there are really deadly spiders in Australia and Brazil.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Crawford
    The previous myth page, where I said that no spider species anywhere can properly be called "deadly," generated more comments than any other on the site. Most were from Australians who were certain their country at least had truly deadly spiders, including the Sydney Funnelweb Spider Atrax robustus and the Redback Spider Latrodectus hasselti. Some also mentioned White-tailed Spiders, genus Lampona. Some comments were from Brazilians who put forward their Phoneutria wandering spiders as the world's deadliest.

    To start with, these people had misunderstood what I said. I never claimed that no human ever died from spider venom. What I said was that there is no species whose bite kills as many as 10% of its victims, nor any spider that kills within minutes, like in the movies. This applies just as strongly to Australia and Brazil as to the USA.

    According to the Australian Museum spider page, the number of human deaths from authentic spider bites of any kind in Australia since 1979 has been zero. A recent published medical study followed 750 genuine Australian spider bite cases with identified spiders over 27 months (1999-2001). Only 44 bites (6%, mostly redback spider bites) had significant effects. Only 6 redback bites and 1 Atrax bite were serious enough to need antivenom. In no case was there any sign of allergic response to spider venom, and I have only seen one such case in North America in 35 years.

    Atrax robustus, the Sydney Funnelweb Spider, is often publicized as the "world's deadliest." Authentic medical information (click here for details) suggests otherwise. There have been no deaths (out of 30-40 bites per year) since antivenom was introduced in 1980. During the 53 year period 1927-1979 there were 13 or 14 known deaths, which would be a death rate of under 1%! Although one child died in 15 minutes, adult fatalities typically took 2-3 days. 90% of Atrax bites are judged not serious enough to need antivenom.

    Most serious spider bites in Australia are from the Redback, Latrodectus hasselti, a close relative of American black widows with very similar venom and effects. The recent study mentioned above tallied 56 genuine redback bites. Only 37 (66%) had any serious effects, and only 6 (11%) were serious enough to need antivenom. There have been no redback-caused human deaths in several decades.

    White-tailed spiders, Lampona cylindrata and relatives, have recently been blamed for Australian cases of severe necrotic lesions, but this connection was not based on enough evidence. The same authors who did the 750-bite study mentioned above, gathered a further 130 cases (aged 3-76 years) bitten by identified Lampona spiders. Local pain and itching were the only effects. No one developed any lesion or ulcer. White-tailed spiders are not guilty of doing any serious harm to humans; this page has more details.

    Brazilian Wandering Spiders (aranhas armadeiras), Phoneutria nigriventer, P. keyserlingi and P. fera, are sometimes said to have the world's most toxic spider venom probably based on a well publicized study where mice were killed by intravenous injection of as little as 0.006 mg of venom. Since I'm a man, not a mouse, that doesn't worry me much. Authoritative sources state that over 7,000 authentic cases of human bites from these spiders have been recorded, with only around 10 known deaths, and about 2% of cases serious enough to need antivenom. So despite the surprisingly large number of bites, this spider is not exactly public enemy number one either.

    Most medical conditions blamed on spiders by physicians lack confirmation that any actual spider was involved in the case. Spider bites of all kinds are rare events (as opposed to other bites and medical conditions that get wrongly blamed on spiders). Although it is possible for a spider bite to cause death, that is a very unlikely outcome and does not happen in enough cases to justify calling any spider "deadly."
    Helpful Links: ID Guide ID Resources Species Guides FAQ Spider Bites Glossary

    "There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance." --Neil deGrasse Tyson

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