The Bacteria and Spider Bite Debate

The Brown Recluse SpiderI am the first to admit, I am jaded. My experience has almost exclusively been of meeting people that were incorrectly diagnosed with spider bites that actually had Staphylococcal skin infections. This is why I was a little bit surprised to see this blurb in an article about the Brown Recluse spider about a woman who doesn’t believe the “bacteria bit” and is sure she was bitten by a spider.

A bacteria — staphylococcus aureus, which is resistant to penicillin-based antibiotics — could be the cause of many of the suspected spider bites. Knapp said the bacteria are found in the north state and can be picked up simply by touching a doorknob.

Cheryl Lam of Mount Shasta doesn’t buy the bacteria bit. She said she was bitten by a brown recluse in 1995 when she was on a riding lawn mower in Michigan, a state not known to have brown recluses.

“My life ended that day,” she said.

Lam said the bite started a cascade of medical problems that trouble her to this day. She has found some comfort on a Web site — — where people from all 50 states have posted stories about run-ins with the brown recluse.

Vetter, who has seen the site, said people have a need to believe that something more tangible than bacteria is the cause of their health problems.

“There really is a strong psychology thing going on here,” he said.

I have talked to our doctor about this several times, and she still stands by the fact that the Brown Recluse will carry the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and we do definitely have them here in Texas – but I am 100% sure, in our case, that an ingrown hair was the source of the infection, as I saw that infection fester up from the day I cut his hair and shaved his neck.

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29 Responses to The Bacteria and Spider Bite Debate

  1. chris gleeton says:

    I’m on the frontline related to bites of recluse spiders. i have notices both mrsa and spider bites are reported in great numbers. i have notice on some visit to homes of people that a bite was reported. misleading information has cause a public health hazard. i have found this species of spiders in several homes. after a person was told they have a boil and/or mrsa.we share information with the general public,schools/univ.,as well as medical facilities
    chris a gleeton,spider bite expert-cmapsb

  2. Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to comment. So, are you saying that you think a lot of these “bites” are actually spider bites? Honestly, shortly after my husband got sick, I did get bitten by a spider – I saw the spider, and that thing swelled up into a boil, and I still have a scar from it. But it wasn’t MRSA, it did go away with no problem…

    Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this subject, it was and still is a great subject of mystery and debate.

  3. pam stewart says:

    I believe I was bitten by a spider, though I did not see it rather felt a twing on the back of my leg.two hrs. later itching & swelling.after treatment of antibiotics it healed.It have had two recurrences of this in a two month period,not in the same spot but close to the original.Is this normal?I have been to the doctor more than I can say and have had blood tests.could it be something else? Thanks! Pam Stewart

  4. LindaR says:

    Take a look at this bite case. The gentleman found the spider so we can assume his bite is from a BRS. His bite looks very similar to the other bites on our web site. (He also mentions Vetter.)
    Look at the Necrosis case studies for other bites.

  5. cathi says:

    My son was doing a construction job in New Hampshire last weekend, came home on Monday, due to swelling on the top of his foot. Felt he had been bitten by something. Swelling, pain up his leg to his groin, redness, fever. He went to the hospital every 5 hours for 2 days for IV anitbiotics. Then they admitted him. The “bite” area became black, then the area around was purple, and the rest of his foot was pink. A swab culture showed MRSA on the 3rd day in the hospital, so they discharged him. They never touched his foot, only antibiotics. He was then told to rinse with hydrogen peroxide twice a day. (remember, they had not treated his foot in 5-6 days ) As soon as the liquid touched the swollen white “boil” it opened and bloody pus came out. The next day, a hard white, something came out and left a hole almost to the bone. Now it is raw and doesn’t seem to be healing. He is still on oral antibiotics, but after seeing many similar pictures of results of the brown recluse spider, I’m even more concerned. Will the raw area continue to grow? or because the “somethings” came out does that mean it will heal now? Any suggestions would be great. Thanks.

  6. Nurse Finch says:

    Well, as a wound care nurse I can tell you that hydrogen peroxide is not standard care. It can injure healthy tissue after the initial injury and should not be used. Was the wound lanced and packed? It needs to be packed and changed daily. Perferably a topical prescription antibiotic (bactroban) or a silver dressing should be used also. I would recommed seeing a different practioner. There are great products that can assist along with the IV abx to heal his would. If you suspect it has traveled to the bone – he will need at least an xray and bone culture. If it has spread to the bone a surgeon will have to removed the affected bone. MRSA can seed the blood stream and travel. Just my two cents – inform yourself as quickly as possible.

  7. Daren Jordan says:

    I was beten by a brown recluse at work , is there any legal ground that i my have.

  8. Kelly says:

    I just want to say I was diagnosed with MRSA 3 years ago and it all started by going to the doctor for a brown recluse spider bite. These spiders got into my house somehow. I went through months of pain, boils, loss of work, and worse of all my 7 year old got MRSA too. We are ok now but that was the worse experience in the world. I really do believe the spider carries a bacteria and this eats the flesh away. I hope they find a cure for this as it is very upsetting and extremely scary to live through. I have no doubt these spiders are dangerous more than we know.

  9. I was bitten by 2003 ,brs, had a circular bruise simular to bulls-eye found in lymes.
    Sick for one year following.
    Four grandchildren M.R.S.A following,brs,bite.
    My sister has Morgellons following red bullseye rash,lymes. Accidenly discovered I too have morgellons while ckecking out her microscope. We now have proof positive Morgellons is a nanobot infection. Public Beware this is just as real asbesto’s and various insects are caring it.

  10. Liz says:

    I live in Missouri and I was bitten by something approx. 4 days ago. Within the first day, a blister formed and drained, and I was left with a volcanic lesion for 2 days. Because it was itching, I put gauze over it to keep myself from being able to scratch it. It started turning purplish blue 2 days ago in the area, and I’m assuming that since I’ve kept dressing on it, whatever is in it that keeps draining has prevented it from getting worse. I cannot be 100% positive that it was a spider that bit me, but I can say it’s the only place I have it (or ever have for that matter), it hasn’t yet developed a huge boil, and it just continues to drain. I can say it’s likely as well, as I first noticed it shortly after leaving the basement area which is extremely dimly lit and we have TONS of spiders down there. It’s itchy and stinging constantly. So I decided to go to the doctor today and he could neither confirm or deny that it is a spider bite, as it looks much like one. He’s testing for staph infection now. My question is, how easily contracted would staph infection be if you had an open blister due to the initial spider bite on your leg? I’m surprised to read the spiders are actually carrying the stuff.

  11. chris gleeton says:

    Research continue in this battle of mrsa and spider bites. I’m finding recluse spiders in homes and facilities where a person has stated a bite has taken place. One was told he had a boil and there was no need to worry. There were several that was told it was a staph, even with the present of a spider capture and taken to the hosiptal.(very rare the spider is capture). I have visit homes were I have discovered recluse spider and no bite has occured(this has happen many of times). There are cases of mrsa and there are spider bites and we must treat them in that matter. thank-you
    chris a geeton, arachnologist-cmapsb

  12. chris gleeton says:

    To understand the spread of mrsa and the differences between mrsa and spider bites, we do know how to detect mrsa and some means of treating it.
    Inthe case of spider bites it’s completely different. Why? the subject if spider bites are tied to mrsa,there’s factors that are closely related. i want to share a quote from several doctors during research on spider bites to better inform the public as well as the medical community,unlike mrsa this quote stated “a person(s) may visit the doctor the day of the bite from a (recluse) spider, two days, two weeks and/or two months there is cure for this spider bite” this statement was made following a death from a spider bite in 1908, 1947 and 2006. This is the reason we must continue to understand both mrsa and spider bites. Information and web site like this one is very vital to the public and should be supported in every possible way.To understand being on the frontline is the work of the individuals of this site sharing and gathering of information on mrsa and other public health hazards related to this topic.
    thank-you chris a gleeton,arachnologist-cmapsb

  13. Shel says:

    I was sleeping with a nest of 15 Brown Widow spiders under my bed. Not discovered until after I had been bite twice. My house was infested with these spiders, they were even in the cieling fan above my bed and dropping on my face at night. I was bit a total of 22 times over the course of a year. Finally I moved out of the house and the bites stopped. Each bite was the same. I have actual proof that these were spider bites because I found a small piece of the spiders “mouth” in the hole in the second bite. My body would initially respond to the bacteria by forming a protective hard shell around the bite. Days later it would swell up like a hot volcano the size of an egg. I would have to dig a hole into the center with sterilized needle and push light green and yellow pus out for 4-5 days. Then I would have take tweezers and yank the lime green stuff from the inside of the hole to get it out. It would cling tightly at first. At the bottom would be two dense small lime green pus balls that I would have to pull out of a 1 inch deep hole with tweezers. Each bite took about 10 days to subside. If I hadn’t intervened by lancing it, it would have taken much longer for the infection to get out. Yes it was extremely painful creating a hole with a needle. It had to be a large hole too, not just a needle size hole for the pus to escape so I would have to tear a larger hole by repeated stabbing at it. Two bites were severe and backed up into my body causing really bad swelling because I was not as successful at creating a hole that got to the infection, fever, and lymph node enlargement (my knee and my face). The areas where the most flesh and fat were bit left the biggest scars. One bite left a deep hole in my cheek. The bite on my upper chest did very little damage due to there being very little flesh there. These people are being bit by spiders and yes the spiders do carry the staph bacteria! It doesn’t matter what type of spider it is because my house had 3 species in it. Trust me, after being bit 22 times I am an expert on this now! I don’t know why, but spiders do carry the staph bacteria on thier ‘mouths’. This information needs to get out there. I have not been bitten by a spider for 2 years now since I moved to a new house. Even tenting my old house didn’t work, the spiders wee in the yard and I was bit 3 times after tenting on my butt when I sat down in my shorts! 3 huge scars remain on my butt, about 8 on my face, 4-5 on my legs, 1 on my neck, 10 in let armpit…thank goodness it’s over. The worst pain ever.

  14. Dave says:

    I have to wonder if the real answer is that BRS carry MRSA. Here’s why:

    We live in So. Ill. and have been trying to control BRS in our house. Last week, my 3-year old daughter woke up with a pus-filled blister covering her fingertip that was not there the night before.

    We went right to the ER and told them that we suspected a BRS bite, because we had been seeing a lot of them lately (I was getting ready to spray). They drained the blister and gave her antibiotics. They took fluid for a culture.

    We got a call a few days later that the culture came back with MRSA. We are starting to treat that.

    But there is no explanation how MRSA would make a large blister appear instantly.

    If BRS carry MRSA, that would explain both findings. It would also explain those folks who swear they were bitten by a spider.

    Just a thought.

  15. chris a gleeton says:

    To understand spider bites,(especially the recluse species).Research has shown that (mrsa) on the skin of a person may be introduce to the wound from a spider bite.
    Spider bites are debated in ways,Many spiders are mistaken for the recluse spiders.The research into spider bites by (Meras), I have notices in the state of Tn. and Ms., these spiders have been plentyful.Understanding frontline services, I spend many hours within confine spaces where the present of the recluse spiders(species properly identified).Yes bites have taken place.Some medical officals refuse to state spider bites as the medical condition.
    Chris A Gleeton,Arachnologist-cmapsb

  16. James says:

    I was bitten by a BRS on my stomach and after the bite saw the half dead spider fall out of my t-shirt. Apparently it was in my shirt when I leaned against a wall. It was stuck between me the shirt and the wall and gave me a bite.

    When I saw the spider fall out of my shirt I collected it in a glass. I live in the Washington, DC area and was surprised to identify it as a BRS. The bite didn’t immediately cause a serious problem, but after a few hours it manifested into a seriously painful bump. Three days passed until I went to the doctor who took a culture of the wound that initially opened up during the doctors visit. I brought the spider along for identification, but he didn’t seem interested in examining it.

    The doctor called a few days later and informed me the infection was positively identified as MRSA from the culture. I believe that the MRSA bacteria is carried by the BRS or somehow introduced into the wound of any bite after being present on the skin.. The evidence is right before us. I believe more research needs to be done to identify the link between the two, but there is definitely a link beyond misdiagnoses.

    I have been on antibiotics for several days now and the draining has slowed and the area of morbidity has decreased. I have not had my wound lanced and packed, but have been instructed by my PCP to go to the ER or a critical care center immediately should the drainage begin to increase.

  17. chris a gleeton says:

    I can not understand why the medical community shy away from the people whose state a bite from the “recluse” spider. When a person present the spider for (Id), This matter should be investated. It’s very rare to catch the spider after a bite. Research has shown “mrsa” can be introduce to wounds. I will continue to share information about this species of spiders. I will share my findings with the public related to bites from spiders. I would like to share this information as related to my visit to the states of Tennessee and Mississippi, I have found this species of spiders pentyful during the seasonal change and the holiday season, the items stored in attics all year, creates great hiding places for these spiders.
    thank-you Chris A. Gleeton,Arachnologist-cmapsb

  18. Bill Roach says:

    If I have a spiderbite that has caused an open wound, and it is draining. If I was to accidently scratch it and then touch someone can they get infected by it?

  19. Chris A Gleeton says:

    I have continue to travel across the counrty researching bites from the recluse spiders. i have talked with people that have been bitten and the spider again was found. In most cases it’s the spider is not found nor the present of them in some homes visited.This will lead to a possible bite.Some factors will not change, until more research is done, an anti-venom for this species of spider,as well as better understanding of the recluse spiders

  20. Chris A Gleeton says:

    I have continue to travel across the counrty researching bites from the recluse spiders. I have talked with people that have been bitten and the spider again was found. In most cases the spider is not found nor the present of them in some homes visited.This will lead to a possible bite.Some factors will not change, until more research is done, an anti-venom for this species of spider,as well as better understanding of the recluse spiders
    Chris A Gleeton,Arachnologist-cmapsb

  21. Fran says:

    We live in Central PA and my husband recently was bitten by a spider (around 11/9). He saw the spider and killed it. His arm swelled at the area of the bite. The medical staff treating him therefore treated him for a spider bute since he saw and killed the spider. A nest of babies was also discovered nearby. On 11/19, after further testing since his arm wasn’t getting any better but worse, he was diagnosed with MRSA.

  22. Colleen says:

    I was bitten two weeks ago, by something, on my back hip…I felt it, and it left a small dot…feeling like a needle puncture…I was working outside…and it got me right where my shirt and shorts didn’t meet…where there was bare skin when bent over….didn’t get to see the bug..after 4 days…I had and 8 inch diameter red raised spot…went to the clinic…was told it was just an infection from a bug bite…next day…swelled to 12 inches…and hotter and more painful…experienced low grade fever and vomiting…ended up in the er.when the doc looked at it he said it looks like a spider..couldn’t get a culture…went back the next day and it had begun to drain…they took a culture and three days later tell me it is mrsa….so i had injections of antibiotics for two days and a broad spectrum antibiotic for five days now…the redness is subsiding but about the 3 inch around the initial bite is still very hot and red…and looks like it is purple imediately around the bit…it stopped draining…don’t go back to see the doc until Wednesday…and we are still waiting for my blood culture. I am positive it was a spider…how else did I get mrsa? Thanks for your posts…very informative…Colleen in Northern Michigan

  23. Gwen says:

    I’m doing some research on this very topic, and thought you’d find this interesting:

    Spider Venom And Bacteria Share Same Toxin

    Personally, the evolution bit doesn’t hold any interest for me, but the toxins are the same. So I guess it doesn’t matter where it originates.

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  25. Lorene says:

    Well, I don’t know about spider bites causing MRSA, but I was bitten by a snake and contacted MRSA. It was night time I went to get my mail out of my country mail box, it was dark, no moon, etc. As I opened the box something hit my leg so hard it almost knocked me off my feet. No I did not see the snake, I went inside checked and saw two small marks on the leg. I used alcohol and peroxide immediately. I became sick to my stomach and had dirreahea. I went to bed, didn’t feel well. Next day I felt fine except my leg was somewhat swollen. I soaked in a hot bath and a long strawlike thing popped out of my leg where the two small marks were located. I put it in a piece of white paper and placed it in a baggie. My leg was by than very red, hot, swollen and the back of my leg itched badly…I told the ER I had been bitten by a snake. No I did not see it. It felt like a hot ice pick had been jabbed into my leg. ER dr said I had cellulitis, I gave him the baggie. “What the hell is this? ” I told him it came out of my leg. He looked at it for a minute and discarded it in the wastebasket. Sent me home on Keflex and told to prop up my leg. By the time I left the ER the spots had become raised bown areas the size of a dime. I did not prop up my leg. Now I know what I gave to him was a fang from the snake! I did cover the wound with a large bandage. The next afternoon, the leg was swollen even more and I again went to the ER. The bandage was sitting high up … the nurse took off the bandage and an abcess the size of half dollar broke open and strings of something along with bloody pus poured out onto the ER floor. It smelled awful. ER dr (different one) cleaned it out packed it covered it. He also took an culture. Yup. it came back as MRSA I was admitted into hospital for IV’s. Kidneys were shutting down. I am fine now but angry. I felt the ER doctor should have believed me when I told him it was a snake bite! I had holes at least an inch deep in my leg. MRSA is now gone and I am okay. I am not a carrier. So, I think when someone says something has bitten me, the doctors should LISTEN. Treat it accordingly especially when the spider was given to them, or in my case when the fang was given to them.

  26. karen biter says:

    please someone help . . my mother in law has been struggling for over 2 months in severe pain. She thought she felt a pinch when getting dressed and then before you knew it she has a deep black hole in her side. She has reddness and is in so much pain. She was admitted to the hospital for over a week, was on pain meds and antibiotics but that was over a month ago. She is still in such pain and the doctors are telling her it could be 2 more months before the pain ends. Could it be a spider bite like some of the doctors are guessing? She is diabetic and an amputee. I feel so bad for her. She lives in NW IN and many have said there aren’t any brown recluse spiders there but who knows. Her side looks so nasty . . . an open wound is so bad for a diabetic . . . please any advice would be helpful. thanks . . .

  27. Derek Johnson says:

    I’m pretty confident I was bitten by a spider and contracted MRSA. My doctor thinks that the bacteria were already on the surface of my skin prior to the bite introducing them into my body.

  28. Chris Gleeton, Arachnologist says:

    Spider bites and mrsa has not changed over the passed few years. We still know very little about bites of the recluse species of spiders. We do know that mrsa continue to spread in facility settings.
    Mrsa vs. spider bites in a community setting raise several questions of concern

    How do we truly determine if a bite from this species of spider has occurred
    What factors would lead to the present of mrsa
    The present of spiders and were these spiders (ID)
    During my research travel a crossed the country I continue to find
    spiders in and around homes businesses and facilities.

  29. Nex says:

    Spiders, it doesn’t matter what species, seem to carry to staph bacteria on their mouths so when you get bit, you get a staph infection. So YES, people are getting bit by spiders and they are getting staph infections from the bite. Try not to get bit by a spider.

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