Volume 71, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Spiders are carnivorous arthropods that coexist with humans and ambush or ensnare prey. Unlike other arthropods, spiders rarely transmit communicable diseases, and play a critical role in the ecosystem by consuming other arthropods that frequently transmit human diseases, such as mosquitoes and flies. There are more than 30,000 species of spiders, most of which are venomous, but they cannot inflict serious bites due to delicate mouthparts and short fangs. The differential diagnosis of spider bites is extensive and includes other arthropod bites, skin infections, and exposure to chemical or physical agents. However, approximately 200 species from 20 genera of spiders worldwide can cause severe human envenomings, with dermonecrosis, systemic toxicity, and death. Spider bites can usually be prevented by simple personal and domestic measures. Early species identification and specific management may help prevent serious sequelae of spider bites.


Article metrics loading...

The graphs shown below represent data from March 2017
Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Toewe CH, 1990. Bug bites and stings. Am Fam Physician 19: 50–61. [Google Scholar]
  2. Goddard J, 1996. Physician’s Guide to Arthropods of Medical Importance. Second edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 272–273.
  3. Isbister GK, 2002. Data collection in clinical toxinology: debunking myths and developing diagnostic algorithms. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 40: 231–237. [Google Scholar]
  4. Litovitz TL, Klein-Schwartz W, Dyer KS, Shannon M, Lee S, Powers M, 1998. Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposure Surveillance System. Am J Emerg Med 16: 443–497. [Google Scholar]
  5. Anonymous, 1996. Necrotic arachnidism-Pacific northwest, 1988–1996. MMWR Morb Mortal Wky Rep 45: 433–436. [Google Scholar]
  6. Isbister GK, Gray MR, 2002. A prospective study of 750 definite spider bites, with expert spider identification. Q J Med 95: 723–731. [Google Scholar]
  7. Schenone H, 1996. Diagnosis in 1,348 patients which consulted for a probable spider bite or insect sting. Bol Chil Parasitol 51: 20–27. [Google Scholar]
  8. Ribeiro LA, Jorge MT, Piesco RV, Nishioka SA, 1990. Wolf spider bites in Sao Paulo, Brazil: a clinical and epidemiological study of 515 cases. Toxicon 28: 715–717. [Google Scholar]
  9. Lucas SM, da Silva PI Jr, Bertani R, Cardoso JL, 1994. Mygalomorph spider bites: a report on 91 cases in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Toxicon 32: 1211–1215. [Google Scholar]
  10. Isbister GK, Hirst D, 2003. A prospective study of definite bites by spiders of the family Sparassidae (huntsmen spiders) with identification to species level. Toxicon 42: 163–171. [Google Scholar]
  11. Isbister GK, Gray MR, 2003. White-tail spider bite: a prospective study of 130 definite bites by Lampona species. Med J Aust 179: 199–202. [Google Scholar]
  12. Vetter RS, Bush SP, 2002. The diagnosis of brown recluse spider bite is overused for dermonecrotic wounds of uncertain etiology. Ann Emerg Med 139: 544–546. [Google Scholar]
  13. Vetter RS, Bush SP, 2002. Reports of presumptive brown recluse spider bites reinforce improbable diagnosis in regions of North America where the spider is not endemic. Clin Infect Dis 35: 442–445. [Google Scholar]
  14. Vetter RS, Cushing PE, Crawford RL, Royce LA, 2003. Diagnosis of brown recluse spider bites (loxoscelism) greatly outnumber actual verifications of the spider in four western American states. Toxicon 42: 413–418. [Google Scholar]
  15. Isbister GK, Graudins A, White J, Warrell D, 2003. Antivenom treatment in arachnidism. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 41: 291–300. [Google Scholar]
  16. Maretic Z, 1983. Latrodectism: variations in clinical manifestations provoked by Latrodectus species of spiders. Toxicon 21: 457–466. [Google Scholar]
  17. Isbister GK, Gray MR, 2003. Latrodectism: a prospective cohort study of bites by formerly identified redback spiders. Med J Aust 179: 88–91. [Google Scholar]
  18. Muller GJ, 1993. Black and brown widow spider bites in South Africa. A series of 45 cases. S Afr Med J 83: 399–405. [Google Scholar]
  19. Lira da Silva RM, Matos GB, Sampaio RO, Nunes TB, 1995. Retrospective study on Latrodectus stings in Bahia, Brazil. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 28: 205–210. [Google Scholar]
  20. Diez Garcia F, Laynez Bretones F, Galvez Contreras MC, Mohd H, Collado Romacho A, Yelamos Rodriguez F, 1996. Black widow spider (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus) bite. Presentation of 12 cases. Med Clin (Barc) 106: 344–346. [Google Scholar]
  21. Clark RF, Wethern-Kestner S, Vance MV, Gerkin R, 1992. Clinical presentation and treatment of black widow envenomation: a review of 163 cases. Ann Emerg Med 21: 782–787. [Google Scholar]
  22. Clark RF, 2001. The safety and efficacy of antivenin Latrodectus mactans. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 39: 119–123. [Google Scholar]
  23. Sutherland SK, 1993. Antivenom use in Australia. Premedication, adverse reactions and the use of venom detection kits. Med J Aust 157: 734–739. [Google Scholar]
  24. O’Malley GF, Dart RC, Kuffner EF, 1999. Successful treatment of lactrodectism with antivenin after 90 hours. N Engl J Med 340: 657. [Google Scholar]
  25. Sutherland SK, Trinca JC, 1978. Survey of 2,144 cases of redback spider bites: Australia and New Zealand, 1963–1976. Med J Aust 2: 620–623. [Google Scholar]
  26. Graudins A, Padula M, Broady K, Nicholson GM, 2001. Red-back spider (Latrodectus hasselti) antivenom prevents the toxicity of widow spider venoms. Ann Emerg Med 37: 154–160. [Google Scholar]
  27. Daly FF, Hill RE, Bogdan GM, Dart RC, 2001. Neutralization of Latrodectus mactans and L. hesperus venom by redback spider (L. hasselti) antivenom. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 39: 119–123. [Google Scholar]
  28. Isbister GK, Gray MR, 2003. Effects of envenoming by comb-footed spiders of the general Steatoda and Achaearanea (family theridiidae: Araneae) in Australia. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 41: 809–819. [Google Scholar]
  29. Graudins A, Gunja N, Broady KW, Nicholson GM, 2002. Clinical and in vitro evidence for the efficacy of Australian red-back spider (Latrodectus hasselti) antivenom in the treatment of envenomation by a cupboard spider (Steatoda grossa). Toxicon 40: 767–775. [Google Scholar]
  30. Warrell DA, Shaheen J, Hillyard PD, Jones D, 1991. Neurotoxic envenoming by an immigrant spider (Steatoda nobilis) in southern England. Toxicon 29: 1263–1265. [Google Scholar]
  31. Cavalieri M, d’Urso D, Lassa A, Pierdominici E, Robello M, Grasso A, 1987. Characterization and some properties of the venom gland extract of a theridiid spider (Steatoda paykulliana) frequently mistaken for the black widow spider (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus). Toxicon 25: 965–974. [Google Scholar]
  32. Sokolov IV, Chanturiia AN, Lishko VK, 1984. Channel-forming properties of Steatoda paykulliana spider venom. Biofizika 29: 620–623. [Google Scholar]
  33. Usmanov PB, Kazakov I, Kalikulov D, Atakuziev BU, Yukelson LY, Tashmukhamedov BA, 1985. The channel-forming component of the Theridiidae spider venom neurotoxins. Gen Physiol Biophys 4: 185–193. [Google Scholar]
  34. Wright SW, Wrenn KD, Murray L, Seger D, 1997. Clinical presentation and outcome of brown recluse spider bite. Ann Emerg Med 30: 28–32. [Google Scholar]
  35. Sezerino UM, Zannin M, Coelho LK, Goncalves JJ, Grando M, Mattoshinho SG, Cardoso JL, von Eickstedt VR, Franca FO, Barbaro KC, Fan HW, 1998. A clinical and epidemiological study of Loxosceles spider envenoming in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 92: 546–548. [Google Scholar]
  36. Rees R, Campbell D, Rieger E, King LE, 1987. The diagnosis and treatment of brown recluse spider bites. Ann Emerg Med 16: 945–949. [Google Scholar]
  37. Sams HH, Dunnick CA, Smith ML, King LE Jr, 2001. Necrotic arachnidism. J Am Acad Dermatol 44: 561–576. [Google Scholar]
  38. Merchant ML, Hinton JF, Geren CR, 1997. Effect of hyperbaric oxygen on sphingomyelinase D activity of brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) venom as studied by 31P nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Am J Trop Med Hyg 56: 335–338. [Google Scholar]
  39. Vorse H, Seccareccio P, Woodruff K, Humphrey GB, 1972. Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy following fatal brown recluse spider bite (necrotic arachnidism). J Pediatr 80: 1035–1037. [Google Scholar]
  40. Gomez HF, Miller MJ, Waggener MW, Lankford HA, Warren JS, 2001. Antigenic cross-reactivity of venoms from medically important North American Loxosceles spider species. Toxicon 39: 817–824. [Google Scholar]
  41. Gomez HF, Miller MJ, Trachy JW, Marks RM, Warren JS, 1999. Intradermal anti-loxosceles Fab fragments attenuate dermonecrotic arachnidism. Acad Emerg Med 6: 1195–1202. [Google Scholar]
  42. Vest DK, 1993. Protracted reactions following probable hobo spider (Tegenaria agrestis) envenoming. Am Arachnol 48: 10. [Google Scholar]
  43. Gorham JR, Rheney TM, 1968. Envenoming by the spiders Cheiracanthium inclusum and Argiope aurantia: observations on arachnidism in the United States. JAMA 296: 158–160. [Google Scholar]
  44. Newlands G, Atkinson P, 1990. Behavioural and epidemiological considerations pertaining to necrotic araneism in southern Africa. S Afr Med J 77: 92–95. [Google Scholar]
  45. Newlands G, Atkinson P, 1990. A key for the clinical diagnosis of araneism in Africa south of the equator. S Afr Med J 77: 96–97. [Google Scholar]
  46. Atkinson RK, Wright LG, 1992. The involvement of collagenase in the necrosis induced by the bites of some spiders. Comp Biochem Physiol C Pharmacol Toxicol Endocrinol 102: 125–128. [Google Scholar]
  47. Foradori MJ, Keil LM, Wells RE, Diem M, Tillinghast EK, 2001. An examination of the potential role of spider digestive pro-teases as a causative factor in spider bite necrosis. Comp Biochem Physiol C Pharmacol Toxicol Endocrinol 130: 209–218. [Google Scholar]
  48. Binford GJ, 2001. An analysis of geographic and intersexual chemical variation in the venoms of the spider Tegenaria agrestis (Agelinidae). Toxicon 39: 955–968. [Google Scholar]
  49. Young AR, Pincus SJ, 2001. Comparison of enzymatic activity from three species of necrotising arachnids in Australia: Loxosceles rufescens, Badumna insignis and Lampona cylindrata. Toxicon 39: 391–400. [Google Scholar]
  50. Miller MK, Whyte IM, White J, Keir PM, 2000. Clinical features and management of Hadronyche envenomation in man. Toxicon 38: 409–427. [Google Scholar]
  51. Harrington AP, Raven RJ, Bowe PC, Hawdon GM, Winkel KD, 1990. Funnel-web spider (Hadronyche infensa) envenomations in coastal south-east Queensland. Med J Aust 171: 651–653. [Google Scholar]
  52. Hawdon GM, Winkel KD, 1997. Spider bite: a rational approach. Aust Fam Physician 26: 1380–1382. [Google Scholar]
  53. Gage PW, Spence I, 1977. The origin of the muscle fasciculation caused by funnel-web spider venom. Am J Exp Biol Med Sci 55: 453–461. [Google Scholar]
  54. Nicholson GM, Graudins A, 2002. Spiders of medical importance in the Asia-Pacific: atracotoxin, latrotoxin and related spider neurotoxins. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 29: 785–794. [Google Scholar]
  55. Sutherland SK, 1978. Primum non nocere and the Sydney funnel-web spider. Med J Aust 2: 105–106. [Google Scholar]
  56. Sutherland SK, 1990. Treatment of arachnid poisoning in Australia. Aust Fam Physician 19: 47–49. [Google Scholar]
  57. Hartman LJ, Sutherland SK, 1984. Funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) antivenom in the treatment of human envenoming. Med J Aust 141: 796–799. [Google Scholar]
  58. Graudins A, Wilson D, Alewood PF, Broady KW, Nicholson GM, 2002. Cross-reactivity of Sydney funnel-web antivenom: neutralization of the in vitro toxicity of other Australian funnel-web (Atrax and Hadronyche) spider venoms. Toxicon 40: 259–266. [Google Scholar]
  59. Miller MK, Whyte IM, Dawson AH, 1999. Serum sickness from funnelweb spider antivenom (letter). Med J Aust 171: 54. [Google Scholar]
  60. Dieckmann J, Prebble J, McDonough A, Sara A, Fisher M, 1989. Efficacy of funnel-web spider antivenom in human envenoming by Hadronyche species. Med J Aust 151: 706–707. [Google Scholar]
  61. Fan HW, Marcopito LF, Cardoso JL, Franca FO, Malaque CM, Ferrari RA, Theakston RD, 1999. Sequential randomized and double blind trial of promethazine prophylaxis against early anaphylactic reactions to antivenom for Bothrops snake bites. BMJ 318: 1451–1452. [Google Scholar]
  62. Antunes E, Marangoni RA, Brain SD, DeNucci G, 1992. Phoneutria nigriventer (armed spider) venom induces increased vascular permeability in rat and rabbit skin in vivo. Toxicon 30: 1011–1016. [Google Scholar]
  63. Bucherl W, 1969. Biology and venoms of the most important South American spiders of the generates Phoneutria, Loxosceles, Lycosa, and Latrodectus. Am Zool 9: 157–159. [Google Scholar]
  64. Bucaretchi F, Deus Reinaldo CR, Hyslop S, Madureira PR, De-Capitani EM, Vieira RJ, 2000. A clinico-epidemiological study of bites by spiders of the genus Phoneutria. Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo 42: 17–21. [Google Scholar]
  65. Isbister GK, Seymour JE, Gray MR, Raven RJ, 2003. Bites by spiders of the family Theraphosidae in humans and canines. Toxicon 41: 519–524. [Google Scholar]
  66. Escoubas P, Diochot S, Corzo G, 2000. Structure and pharmacology of spider venom neurotoxins. Biochimie 82: 893–907. [Google Scholar]
  67. Bode F, Sachs F, Franz MR, 2001. Tarantula peptide inhibits atrial fibrillation. Nature 409: 35–36. [Google Scholar]
  68. Hered RW, Abbot G, Spaulding AG, Sanitato JJ, Wander AH, 1988. Ophthalmia nodosa caused by tarantula hairs. Ophthalmology 95: 166–169. [Google Scholar]
  69. Rutzen AR, Weiss JS, Kachadoorian H, 1993. Tarantula hair ophthalmia nodosa. Am J Ophthalmol 116: 381–382. [Google Scholar]
  70. Hung JCC, Pecker CO, Wild NJ, 1996. Tarantula eyes. Arch Dis Child 75: 462–463. [Google Scholar]
  71. Blaikie AJ, Ellis J, Sanders R, MacEwen CJ, 1997. Eye disease associated with handling pet tarantulas: three case reports. BMJ 314: 1524–1525. [Google Scholar]
  72. Belyea DA, Tuman DC, Ward TP, Babonis TR, 1998. The red eye revisited: ophthalmia nodosa due to tarantula hairs. South Med J 91: 565–567. [Google Scholar]
  73. Cooke JAL, Roth VD, Miller FH, 1972. The urticating hairs of theraphosid spiders. Am Museum Novitates 498: 1–43. [Google Scholar]
  74. Cadera W, Pachtman MA, Fountain JA, 1984. Ocular lesions caused by caterpillar hairs (ophthalmia nodosa). Can J Ophthalmol 19: 40–44. [Google Scholar]
  75. DeHaro L, Jouglard J, 1998. The dangers of pet tarantulas: experience of the Marseilles Poison Centre. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 36: 51–53. [Google Scholar]
  76. Fuller GK, 1984. Spider (Latrodectus hesperus) poisoning through the conjunctiva. A case report. Am J Top Med Hyg 33: 1035–1036. [Google Scholar]
  77. Isbister GK, 2003. Acute conjunctival inflammation following contact with squashed spider contents. Am J Ophthalmol 136: 563–564. [Google Scholar]
  78. Cooke JA, Miller FH, Grover RW, Duffy JL, 1973. Urticaria caused by tarantula hairs. Am J Trop Med Hyg 22: 130–133. [Google Scholar]
  79. Castro FF, Antila MA, Croce J, 1995. Occupational allergy caused by urticating hair of Brazilian spider. J Allergy Clin Immunol 95: 1282–1285. [Google Scholar]
  80. Vetter RS, 1998. Envenomation by a spider, Agelenopsis aperta (family: Agelinidae) previously considered harmless. Ann Emerg Med 32: 739–741. [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Received : 04 Feb 2004
  • Accepted : 11 Mar 2004

Most Cited This Month

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error