Is it really a brown recluse?

By Diane Palmer

brown recluse courtesy of ipm images

The brown recluse spider may be getting more credit than deserved for putting the bite on South Carolina residents. The number of skin lesions diagnosed as brown recluse bites is far greater than the number of spiders that have been collected.

“It is difficult for a physician to diagnose a brown recluse bite based simply on an examination of the wound,” said Clemson entomologist Ian Stocks. He worked with Ivar Frithsen of the Medical University of South Carolina and Richard Vetter of the University of California at Riverside to analyze spider bite diagnosis data collected from physicians in the state.

They found that, in many cases, if a patient did not remember getting an injury they assumed it was a spider bite. In fact, many times the wound was caused by bacteria called MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which has become a significant health problem in parts of South Carolina. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

For more information: Ian Stocks, 864-656-5058, ians@clemson.edu, or www.jabfm.org/.