Marieke van Wijk et al

A Dutch tourist's ear dissolved and a chunk of it fell off after she was bitten by a venomous Mediterranean recluse spider on holiday in Italy.

The 22-year-old woman's face and ear started swelling so she sought treatment at an Italian hospital.

But once back in the Netherlands, the pain in her ear persisted, and it eventually turned black, reports Live Science.

Doctors told her she'd been bitten by a Mediterranean recluse spider, whose bite destroys skin and underlying fat.

Before reconstruction. Photo: Marieke van Wijk et al


Dr Marieke van Wijk, a plastic surgeon in the Netherlands involved in the woman's treatment, told Live Science that the case is the first evidence that the venom can also destroy ear cartilage.

She co-authored a case report on the incident, which was published last month in Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery.

The complex nature of the spider's venom makes it hard to treat, and bites are usually dealt with using painkillers and ice packs.

But in this extreme case, van Wijk had to remove the dead tissue and recreate it using cartilage from the woman's ribs.

After resconstruction. Photo: Marieke van Wijk et al


According to the Daily Mail, the Mediterranean recluse originated in North Africa but is now widely distributed.

It does not commonly bite humans, with nips usually occurring if the spider is forced into contact with people, perhaps trapped in clothing or bedding.

Van Wijk added they are "not that dangerous" and said: "I wouldn't take precautions, but if one develops a mysterious red-white-and-blue and swollen lesion in summer, in an endemic region, keep the brown recluse in mind."

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