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2.7. Tarantula Spider Venom
The tarantula is a large spider which belongs the Family Theraphosidae and has as its habitat a hole under the
ground. Tarantula spider venoms contain various components, such are bioamines, polyamines, adenosine
nucleotides and proteins (91,92).
The venom from the Mexican red knee tarantula, Brachypelma smithii, is considered not be hazardous to
man. Two proteins of the toxin were isolated and sequenced. Protein-1 has 39 residues, including six cysteine
residues with three disulfide bonds (93). It is identical to one of the isoforms of cockroach-toxic ESTX from the
venom of another tarantula, Eurypelma californium, that contains 39 residues (94). Protein-5 has 34 residues,
including six cysteine residues with three disulfide bonds, and is most similar to Tx2-9 from the Brazilian
'armed' spider, although it has only 41% sequence identity (66-68,94).
The venom from the Chinese bird spider, Selenocosmia huwena, which lives in holes underground in the
south of China, caused paralysis and rapid respiratory failure in mice (95). Neurotoxic components were
proteins. Among the neurotoxic components, was huwentoxin-I, a peptide of 33 residues, isolated from the
venom. The structure of huwentoxin-I was similar to omega-agatoxin V from the funnel web spider, Agelenopsis
aperta, which had three disulfide bonds. However, the biological activities of the two toxins were quite
different. Huwentoxin-I was shown to reversibly block the neuromuscular transmission in an isolated mouse
phrenic nerve-diaphragm preparation (96) and the omega-agatoxins are known to be insecticidal neurotoxins, which
can induce repetitive firing and massive transmitter release from presynaptic stores at the neuromuscular
junction of insects (86,97). A study of the three-dimensional structure of huwentoxin-I is in progress (98).
3.1. Recluse Spider Venom
Recluse spiders (genus Loxosceles) are cosmopolitan, found in urban environments and make irregular web
structures. There are in excess of 50 species, only a few of which have been implicated in loxoscelism.
Venomous effects: In 1957, the bite of Loxosceles reclusa in the USA was discovered to have caused necrotic
arachnidism (99). There have been at least 126 cases of necrotic spider bite (Loxoscelism) in the USA and
about 400 cases in South America (100). In most cases there was local skin necrosis; however, it is important to
note the occurrence of systematic reactions, including hemolysis, renal failure, and death (101).
Venomous component: Sphingomyelinase D is an important component of Loxoscheles venom, and is
responsible, at least in part, for local skin necrosis, intravascular haemolysis and platelet aggregation. The role of
polymorphonuclear leucocytes seems to be important in the development of local vasculitis, the putative cause
of necrotic lesions. The haemolytic activity may be related to G6PD deficiency. Complement activation and
other factors promoting haemolytic activity are apparently not involved (15).
In 1978, Bettini and Brignoli summarized research
concerning the venom of L. tarentula, pointing to its
haemolytic and proteolytic effects.8 These effects
result, normally, only in a slight local response in
humans, contrasting with the strong neurotoxic action
of L. tredecimguttatus. MareticÂ and Lebez, reported a
strong haemolytic action of the venom, as well as a
pronounced proteolytic effect on gelatin and a hydrolytic
action on glycogen and starch.11 In human bite
victims and bitten experimental animals, necrosis of
the skin only occurs if the venom has contact with
intradermal layers rather than subcutaneous or muscular
layers, ®rst observed by Vellard.23 Systemic
symptoms, in particular bristled hair, salivation, and
pareses, were noted in a cat bitten by L. tarentula; a
few mice subjected to the bite died.11 Transient
dyspnea, restlessness, and pareses, developing in
bitten animals, has also been observed.23
The largest wolf spider species present in North
America, Lycosa carolinensis (Carolina wolf spider),
resembles the `famous tarantula' of southern
Europe.24 The female's body reaches a length of
25mm or more; it is hairy, of a brown ± grey colour.
This species is equipped with powerful fangs; Kaston
described its bite as causing two drops of blood to
appear at the bite site as well as effecting a slight pain
which, however, lasted only 15 minutes. No other
symptoms were encountered.25 Kaston also referred to
the legendary L. tarentula of southern Italy as harmless
to man, having been associated only mistakenly
with the severity of symptoms exhibited by victims
dancing the tarantella.
Redman26 in 1974 and Campbell and colleagues27
in 1987 have provided further evidence of the relative
harmlessness of the wolf spiders of the United States.
Bites may cause a mild necrosis in humans, especially
in cases of a secondary infection which may be
accompanied by lymphangitis,26 while also being
British Homeopathic Journal
capable of generating mild systemic effects in some
cases such as transient nausea or lightheadedness27 In
Brazil, bites in¯icted by wolf spider species have
caused local pain, oedema, and erythema, but no
local necrotic nor systemic effects.28 Formerly,
strong necrotic effects had been ascribed especially
to the wolf spider Scaptocosa raptoria, but the genus
Loxosceles was later identi®ed as responsible.