Brown Recluse Spider Toxin Effect on Red Blood Cells

The bite of a brown recluse spider can have long-lasting or systemic effects, which means it can affect a person's entire body.

Brown recluse venom has antigenic properties, which means that after sustaining a bite, a person's immune system is stimulated to develop antibodies against this toxin. One of the substances contained in the venom, called sphingomyelinase D, has a toxic effect on red blood cells. It can cause damage to the wall of red blood cells and result in the leakage of a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen.

One result of this can be anemia, which is the deficiency of hemoglobin. Another serious effect is kidney failure, which occurs when the discarded red blood cell casts are filtered through the kidneys and in extreme cases can result in death.

In addition, when a person receives a brown recluse bite, his/her immune system sends white blood cells to the area of injury to combat the damage. However, one of the possible effects of the toxin is that clots can sometimes form in the person's capillaries rather than where they are needed. If this happens, the result can be the death or decay of that tissue, known as necrosis.

If a bite victim does have this type of reaction to the toxins and necrosis results, the skin at the bite location will begin to come off over a period of ten days to two weeks after the bite. The open wound can be anywhere from an inch to several inches in size and in some cases, can expose underlying tissue or even bone. These types of wounds take time to heal, usually several weeks at least, and many people are left with scar tissue.

If you suspect that you or another person has been bitten by a brown recluse, seek medical treatment right away. It is very helpful to take the spider along, if possible, to properly identify it and determine the best treatment.