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A Mysterious Chemical Component Of Brown Recluse Venom Promotes The Development Of Tissue Necrosis Following A Bite

Brown recluse spiders have become well known as the house spiders with a “deadly” bite. While brown recluse spiders may be a little larger and a bit hairier than your typical house spiders, they have traditionally been dismissed as mostly harmless to humans. Of course, when brown recluse spiders feel threatened, or when they are handled, they will not hesitate to deal out one of their notoriously painful bites. As it turns out, the result of a brown recluse bite can be much more serious than a sting. Researchers at the University of Arizona have recently found that brown recluse venom produces a different and far more harmful chemical within the human body than was previously assumed. This chemical is responsible for causing the tissue necrosis that sometimes develops around the bite wound.

For years researchers assumed that brown recluse bites were not much more harmful than any other spider bite, despite the necrotic infections that sometimes form at the site of the bite wounds. Now, researchers have a better understanding as to why these necrotic infections take form. One of the many toxic proteins contained within brown recluse venom causes lipids to alter their function in a particular manner that results in cell-death. While the properties of these lipids and how they lead to necrosis is not exactly understood, it is believed that a pronounced immune response occurs, which results in blood being cut off from the site of the bite wound. This loss of blood flow to the bite wound results in the death of skin cells, which is what causes the well known necrotic black lesion that sometimes appears at the site of brown recluse wounds. In rare cases, a systemic infection can result from a brown recluse bite, which can lead to kidney failure and death. Luckily, the discovery of this new protein will allow researchers to develop more effective medical treatments for brown recluse bites.

Have you ever known anyone who sustained tissue necrosis from a brown recluse bite, or any spider bite?

 

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