WARNING: This report contains graphic images
Doctors have rebuilt a 22-year-old woman’s ear using cartilage from her ribs after she was bitten by a Mediterranean recluse spider.
The unnamed Dutch tourist had been holidaying in Italy when the bite caused the tissue to turn black and necrotise, Live Science reports.
The venom of the Mediterranean recluse, Loxosceles rufescens, can cause necrotic lesions of the skin which may require surgical grafts.
Scroll down for images of the patient's ear
The Mediterranean recluse spider originated in the region of North Africa and Europe but is now widely distributed in in temperate and tropical areas, including parts of north America
Dr Marieke van Wijk, a plastic surgeon from the Netherlands who was involved in the unnamed woman’s treatment, said the spider’s bite can cause “sunken-in” scars or a “disfigured ear if you are very unlucky”.
According to literature by the University of Arkansas Anthropod Museum, bites:
“Can also be intensely painful almost immediately. They can eventually result in a circular red area on the skin, which sloughs off, leaving a slow-healing, open wound and exposed muscle tissue. The edges of the wound become thickened and raised, while the central area is filled by dense scar tissue. Lesions can range in diameter up to 10 inches. Healing can take up to two months or more. The victim is often left with a sunken scar that looks as if a hole had been scooped from the body. In some cases, the victim also suffers a general systemic reaction. Symptoms can include fever, rash, nausea, vomiting, hemolytic anemia, bloody urine, renal failure, and shock.”
The species does not commonly bite humans, with nips usually occurring if the spider is forced into contact with people, perhaps trapped in clothing or bedding.
Dr van Wijk added that the spiders are “not that dangerous, but if one develops a mysterious red-white-and-blue swollen lesion in summer, in an endemic region, keep the brown recluse in mind.”
Further details of the case were published in the International Journal of Surgical Reconstruction.
Last year a bite from the brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa, caused student Nikki Perez to nearly lose her ear.