What It's Like to Be Bitten By a Black Widow

It hurts, a lot; but a new drug in testing holds promise of relief

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 21, 2013 2:03 PM CDT

(Newser) – Most of us have probably unknowingly walked by hundreds of black widow spiders in our lifetimes, writes outdoorsman Jackson Landers, but not many of us have been bitten. Among the unlucky few is Landers himself, and he writes about the experience in the New York Times. After spotting one of the distinctive spiders on his porch—red hourglass markings are a giveaway—he proceeded to seek out others and kill them, to make sure his kids stayed safe. But one day, while going fishing, he "felt a stinging sensation on the second toe of my left foot, as if there had been a thorn inside the shoe."

It was, of course, a black widow bite, from which a few people die each year worldwide. The pain gradually spread, and Landers checked himself into the hospital. The pain grew worse. "My biceps cramped. I shivered and twitched uncontrollably." At the same time, "I was the hospital’s closest thing to a rock star," given the rarity of the condition. "Most patients are expected to tough it out" when they get bitten, because the antivenin itself can be deadly: It comes from the blood of a horse, and some people are allergic. But things were different for Landers. It happened that the hospital was trying out a new antivenin linked to sheep rather than horses, and Landers had the opportunity to be a test subject. For him, it worked. The drug is likely years away from approval, notes Landers, but it could eventually bring quick relief to bite victims. Click through for the full story.

Black widows are actually pretty shy, writes Jackson Landers.
Black widows are actually pretty shy, writes Jackson Landers.   (Shutterstock)
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