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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
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Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Killer Brazilian Caterpillars
11 October 1996 8:00 pm
It sounds like a scene from a horror movie: A 52-year-old Brazilian woman brushed against a caterpillar while she was picking plums, and a few days later she died a horrible death after developing bruises all over her body and lapsing into a coma. She was a victim of venom the insect injected into her skin.
The case, reported in today's issue of The Lancet, is the latest example of what researchers believe is a rising incidence of such deadly encounters. The tragedy occurred in the Passo Fundo region of southern Brazil. Health officials there have documented more than 600 cases of caterpillar poisoning since 1989, including 12 deaths. "We believe some kind of ecological disturbance in this region" has increased the number of human-caterpillar encounters, says lead author Hui Wen Fan, a physician at São Vicente de Paulo hospital in Passo Fundo.
The venom of the offending species, Lonomia obliqua, inhibits human blood from clotting. Most fatalities occur from uncontrolled bleeding in people over 50, Fan says.