18 August 2003
Although it can deliver a painful bite, it seems that the oft-maligned white-tail spider is very unlikely to cause the untreatable ulcers and skin lesions attributed to the bite over the past 20 years.
A world-first study published in the current issue of the Medical Journal of Australia (2003; 179 (4): 199-202) shows that of 130 white-tail spider bite victims in the study, none suffered from these ulcers or from confirmed infection.
Dr Geoff Isbister, from the Clinical Envenoming Research Group at the University of Newcastle, and Dr Mike Gray, Senior Research Scientist at the Australian Museum, examined the effects of bites by 2 species of white-tail spider — Lampona cylindrata and Lampona murina.
Several reports of necrotic lesions (lesions associated with dead tissue cells) associated with supposed white-tail spider bites have been published in the past 20 years, despite a lack of evidence of white-tail spider identification in these suspected cases.
‘In our study, cases were only included if there was a clear history of bite, the spider was caught and was identified by an expert,’ Dr Isbister said.
The study included 130 patients who’d been bitten by a white-tail spider between February 1999 and April 2002.
‘Most bites occurred in the warmer months in southern Australia, indoors, in the evening and at night. The spider was usually encountered between bedclothes, towels or clothing,’ Dr Isbister said.
The bites to the 130 people in the study had the following characteristics.
The bites to the 130 people in the study were not characterised by necrotic ulcers or confirmed infections.
'We hope this study will begin to dispel some of the myths surrounding white-tail spiders and their bite,' Dr Isbister said.
Last Reviewed: 15 August 2003