OBJECTIVE - Systemic loxoscelism is a rare illness resulting from the bite of the recluse spider and, in its most severe form, can lead to widespread hemolysis, coagulopathy, and death. We aim to describe the clinical features and outcomes of the largest known cohort of individuals with moderate to severe loxoscelism.
METHODS - We performed a retrospective, cross sectional study from January 1, 1995, to December 31, 2015, at a tertiary-care academic medical center, to determine individuals with clinical records consistent with moderate to severe loxoscelism. Age-, sex-, and race-matched controls were compared. Demographics, clinical characteristics, laboratory measures, and outcomes of individuals with loxoscelism are described. Case and control groups were compared with descriptive statistics and phenome-wide association study (PheWAS).
RESULTS - During the time period, 57 individuals were identified as having moderate to severe loxoscelism. Of these, only 33% had an antecedent spider bite documented. Median age of individuals diagnosed with moderate to severe loxoscelism was 14 years old (IQR 9.0-24.0 years). PheWAS confirmed associations of systemic loxoscelism with 29 other phenotypes, e.g., rash, hemolytic anemia, and sepsis. Hemoglobin level dropped an average of 3.1 g/dL over an average of 2.0 days (IQR 2.0-6.0). Lactate dehydrogenase and total bilirubin levels were on average over two times their upper limit of normal values. Eighteen individuals of 32 tested had a positive direct antiglobulin (Coombs') test. Mortality was 3.5% (2/57 individuals).
CONCLUSION - Systemic loxoscelism is a rare but devastating process with only a minority of patients recalling the toxic exposure; hemolysis reaches a peak at 2 days after admission, with some cases taking more than a week before recovery. In endemic areas, suspicion for systemic loxoscelism should be high in individuals, especially children and younger adults, presenting with a cutaneous ulcer and hemolysis or coagulopathy, even in the absence of a bite exposure history.