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Concept: STING

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Despite the medical urgency presented by cubozoan envenomations, ineffective and contradictory first-aid management recommendations persist. A critical barrier to progress has been the lack of readily available and reproducible envenomation assays that (1) recapitulate live-tentacle stings; (2) allow quantitation and imaging of cnidae discharge; (3) allow primary quantitation of venom toxicity; and (4) employ rigorous controls. We report the implementation of an integrated array of three experimental approaches designed to meet the above-stated criteria. Mechanistically overlapping, yet distinct, the three approaches comprised (1) direct application of test solutions on live tentacles (termed tentacle solution assay, or TSA) with single image- and video-microscopy; (2) spontaneous stinging assay using freshly excised tentacles overlaid on substrate of live human red blood cells suspended in agarose (tentacle blood agarose assays, or TBAA); and (3) a “skin” covered adaptation of TBAA (tentacle skin blood agarose assay, or TSBAA). We report the use and results of these assays to evaluate the efficacy of topical first-aid approaches to inhibit tentacle firing and venom activity. TSA results included the potent stimulation of massive cnidae discharge by alcohols but only moderate induction by urine, freshwater, and “cola” (carbonated soft drink). Although vinegar, the 40-year field standard of first aid for the removal of adherent tentacles, completely inhibited cnidae firing in TSA and TSBAA ex vivo models, the most striking inhibition of both tentacle firing and subsequent venom-induced hemolysis was observed using newly-developed proprietary formulations (Sting No More™) containing copper gluconate, magnesium sulfate, and urea.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Blood, Red blood cell, Bone marrow, Stinger, Soft drink, STING

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Stings from the hydrozoan species in the genus Physalia cause intense, immediate skin pain and elicit serious systemic effects. There has been much scientific debate about the most appropriate first aid for these stings, particularly with regard to whether vinegar use is appropriate (most current recommendations recommend against vinegar). We found that only a small percentage (≤1.0%) of tentacle cnidae discharge during a sting event using an ex vivo tissue model which elicits spontaneous stinging from live cnidarian tentacles. We then tested a variety of rinse solutions on both Atlantic and Pacific Physalia species to determine if they elicit cnidae discharge, further investigating any that did not cause immediate significant discharge to determine if they are able to inhibit cnidae discharge in response to chemical and physical stimuli. We found commercially available vinegars, as well as the recently developed Sting No More(®) Spray, were the most effective rinse solutions, as they irreversibly inhibited cnidae discharge. However, even slight dilution of vinegar reduced its protective effects. Alcohols and folk remedies, such as urine, baking soda and shaving cream, caused varying amounts of immediate cnidae discharge and failed to inhibit further discharge, and thus likely worsen stings.

Concepts: Effectiveness, Jellyfish, Stinger, Vinegar, Sodium bicarbonate, Hydrozoa, STING

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Scorpions have been shown to control their venom usage in defensive encounters, depending on the perceived threat. Potentially, the venom amount that is injected could be controlled by reducing the flow speed, the flow duration, or both. We here investigated these variables by allowing scorpions to sting into an oil-filled chamber, and recording the accreting venom droplets with high-speed video. The size of the spherical droplets on the video can then be used to calculate their volume. We recorded defensive stings of 20 specimens representing 5 species. Significant differences in the flow rate and total expelled volume were found between species. These differences are likely due to differences in overall size between the species. Large variation in both venom flow speed and duration are described between stinging events of single individuals. Both venom flow rate and flow duration correlate highly with the total expelled volume, indicating that scorpions may control both variables in order to achieve a desired end volume of venom during a sting.

Concepts: Stinger, Heavy metal music, Scorpion, Ramachandran plot, STING

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Stinging insect allergy is responsible for more than 10% of all cases of anaphylaxis. The potential culprit insects are diverse and vary with geography. The incidence of insect allergy is declining in some areas and increasing in others, possibly due to effects of climate change, introduction of species into new areas, outdoor recreational activities, and movement of human populations that brings insects into contact with a greater number of people. Flying Hymenoptera and imported fire ant stings are responsible for the majority of patients evaluated for insect anaphylaxis. The most efficient means of identifying allergy to insects is skin testing although falsely positive and negative results occur. The limitations of testing coupled with the natural temporal variability of allergic sensitivity complicate the interpretation of test results. The clinical history is of paramount importance to be certain that the test results are relevant; therefore, screening or testing before a history of a sting reaction is not advisable. Mast cell disorders are associated with severe anaphylaxis from insect stings and should be considered in affected subjects. Insect immunotherapy, using venoms for most insects and whole-body extracts for imported fire ants, is proven effective in reducing the likelihood of anaphylaxis due to subsequent stings from 40%-60% to less than 5%. Future clinical application of component testing or in vitro cellular tests, such as the basophil activation test, may improve optimal choices for immunotherapy.

Concepts: Insect, Allergy, Mast cell, Anaphylaxis, Ant, Fire ant, Hymenoptera, STING

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Few conditions are as treatable as allergy to stinging insects, with venom immunotherapy (VIT) providing up to 98% protection to subsequent stings. The challenge with VIT is not in the treatment, but in the diagnosis. To offer VIT, one must determine a history of a systemic reaction to a stinging insect in conjunction with the presence venom-specific IgE. Current diagnostic methods, although sensitive and specific, are imperfect, and some newer testing options are not widely available. A conundrum occasionally faced is the patient with a reliable and compelling history of a systemic allergic reaction yet negative venom-specific testing. This diagnostic dilemma presents an opportunity to consider possible causes for this diagnostic challenge.

Concepts: Immune system, Asthma, Immunology, Immunoglobulin E, Allergy, Mast cell, Pollen, STING

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In recent years, stings of a lethal scorpion species were recorded from Jaffna Peninsula in the northern dry zone of Sri Lanka. This species was identified as Hottentotta tamulus (Scorpiones: Buthidae) which is the Indian red scorpion commonly found in Maharashtra, India. The Teaching Hospital, Jaffna recorded 84 H. tamulus stings over a year in 2012 and of them, 23 cases provided offending scorpions (proven cases). Three localities in Jaffna were recorded as hotspots of scorpion stings namely Palali, Achchuvali and Karainagar. Of the proven cases, 13 (57%) and 10 (43%) were males and females respectively and had a mean age of 30 years (SD ± 20 years). Among them, 5 (22%) were children below 12 years. In 13 (57%) patients stings occurred inside their houses including two children (40%). Six (26%) stings occurred at night when the victims were in sleep. Median time taken to arrive at the hospital from the time of stinging was 58 min (range 8-550 min). Signs of over activation of autonomic nervous system predominated the clinical picture-tachycardia in 14 (61%), high blood pressure in 11 (48%), excessive sweating in 9 (39%), excessive salivation in 5 (22%), hypotension in 4 (17%) and piloerection in 3 (13%). Children showed higher predilection to develop tachycardia - 4 (80%) and excessive salivation - 3 (60%). Priapism was not observed and 17 (74%) patients have developed intense pain at the site of sting. The commonest ECG change was tachycardia (73%) and occasional T wave inversion. Prazosin as a treatment was given to 22 (96%) patients. All patients made recovery and 13 (57%) patients left the hospital within two days. In future, there is a potential risk of spreading this species to elsewhere in the country and may disturb the ecological balance.

Concepts: Hypertension, Sri Lanka, Scorpion, Jaffna, Jaffna Peninsula, STING, Jaffna District