31 August 2008

Brown Recluse Spider Bite... Or Was It?

YG had forwarded me an email containing photos of a supposedly spider-bite victim. I really appreciate YG's genuine concern for my safety because it is a fact that I know very little about spiders.

The email started with this relatively mild photo:

Then the wound got progressively nastier:

I have deliberately omitted the last 2 photos in the email because I think they are too gory for this blog.

Warning: If I am not wrong, in the last 2 photos of the email, you could even see the bone in the open wound! However, if you are not affected by such photos, you can see them here. And if you enjoy viewing such photos (or intend to attend medical school), you can see more of the same kind here.

The wound was supposedly caused by the bite of a venomous brown recluse spider (BRS):

Not that I want to be a toxicologist but I am just curious. So I googled for more information.

It is indeed true that a BRS bite can cause necrosis (unnatural death of cells and living tissue). However, not all cases of necrosis are due to spider bites. In fact, medical professionals caution that an injury should not be classified as a spider bite unless the spider has been seen doing the biting. Many of the wounds may be from other kinds of infections and could even be the result of cancer.

Finally, I found this "Truth Or Fiction" website that says that the truth of this email (the photos of which first surfaced in 2002) is unproven.

In any case, the BRS is found in the US from the southern Midwest south to the Gulf of Mexico, certainly a long way from Singapore. If I see it, I may mistake it for a common household spider, otherwise known as daddy long legs. However, I don't think I will mistake it for a fighting spider.

But still, I would like to sincerely thank YG again for his concern for my safety.


Lam Chun See said...

You are right. This BRS fella looks quite harmless. But it would help if we could get a better idea of its size; e.g. compared to a paper clip.

yg said...

wah, you really took the trouble to investigate the matter. i did not know it was a brs. so, the truth of the email is unproven. i think you did the right thing, checking it out with different sources. a lot of things floating around in cyberspace have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous said...

I just poked my thumb with a fishbone and you know, hahaha ...I was imagining my thumb looking like those in your pics.

Victor said...

Chun See - The size of an average BRS is slightly larger than a US penny - about the same size as a Singapore 1-cent coin? There is a photo comparing size of the US penny and the BRS here.

Victor said...

YG - Actually, a lot of information we see on the web are fake. A recent case in point is this self-proclaimed celebrity photographer. Luckily for us, it is also quite easy to verify the truthfulness of the information via the web as well.

Victor said...

Frannxis - I hope it was an accident and not a deliberate act. Haha.

It shouldn't be that serious lah, unless it is the stonefish.

Unknown said...

This series of photographs is actually 100% genuine. It is the thumb of Professor Lynn McCutcheon at Kilgore College in Kilgore, TX. He is a biology professor at my college, and the pictures are from about 10 years ago. Check out Snopes.com and you can find a little more information about it.

Victor said...

Thanks, Kevin. I have found the link in Snopes.com. However, it mentioned that the incident happened in June 2003, not 10 years ago.