Toxic spider bites twice in a week

Two women in the south have needed plastic surgery on their legs after poisonous spiders got inside their trousers

TWO women in Languedoc-Roussillon have had to have plastic surgery after being bitten by a poisonous spider known as the brown recluse (recluse brune).

Though its main habitat is the southern states of the US there have been two recent cases in France – in Hérault and Gard, both involving women who were bitten on the leg and who needed extensive plastic surgery to repair the wounds.

The spider is small and is rarely seen – hence its name. It spins a conical web in out of the way places like lofts and garages. It is not said to be aggressive, however in the two recent cases the spiders ended up inside people’s trouser legs, pressed against their skin.

‘Sandra’, 32, from the Gard, says she felt itching in her leg mid-morning at work and found red and blue marks on her leg (see Twitter post, below) – she thinks a spider must have been in the trousers she put on that morning to go to work.

After consulting doctors, she was due to be operated on yesterday after an area of skin about 10cm across started to die off and needed removing. Other skin was to be stretched across the wound and stitched up.

Her plastic surgeon, Christian Herlin, had had to do the same for a 38-year-old woman from Hérault a few days ago.

He told Le Midi Libre “She’d been bitten by a spider trapped in her trousers too, and her wound looked even worse. We operated to remove flesh that had necrotised on the surface and down to the muscle and she’s now got a 10cm scar”.

Bites by the brown recluse are not always as dangerous as in these two cases and do not always require surgery, however if a bite causes a large discoloured area doctors say it is vital to seek urgent medical help.

Reportedly there have been several dozen brown recluse bites reported in the south of France in the last few years.

Brown recluses are variable in size but generally about 2.5cm long with legs extended. They range from tan to dark brown and have a mark on the head like a violin with the neck pointing towards the spider's abdomen, though this may be less noticeable in younger ones. They have six eyes in three groups of two, while most other spiders have eight (however this can only be seen clearly with a magnifying glass.

La recluse brune, la petite araignée dont il faut se méfier— metronews (@metronews) July 9, 2015

Photo: Rosa Pineda