Distribution and medical aspects of Loxosceles rufescens, one of the most invasive spiders of the world (Araneae: Sicariidae)

Toxicon. 2017 Jun 15:132:19-28. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2017.04.007. Epub 2017 Apr 10.


Loxosceles rufescens is a circum-Mediterranean spider species, potentially harmful to humans. Its native area covers the Mediterranean Basin and Near East. Easily spread with transported goods, it is meanwhile an alien and invasive species to nearly all other continents and many islands. This species occurs in semi-arid steppe-like habitats, typically under stones and in cavities, which enables it to settle inside buildings when invading the synanthropic environment. This review analyses the literature of L. rufescens bites to humans (38 publications) of which only 11 publications refer to 12 verified spider bites (11% of the reported bites). Two published allegedly deadly spider bites (Thailand 2014 and Italy 2016) involve non-verified spider bites and are thus not reliable. The symptoms and therapy of these 11 verified bites are described: only five cases showed moderate systemic effects, nine cases developed necrosis, four cases needed surgical debridement, all cases healed without complications within a few weeks. In conclusion, L. rufescens is a spider species globally spread by human activity, it rarely bites humans and the bites are less harmful than often described. There is no known fatal issue.

Keywords: Alien and invasive species; Cutaneous necrosis; Mediterranean recluse spider; Native distribution area; Sphingomyelinase D; Verified spider bite.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Humans
  • Introduced Species
  • Necrosis / chemically induced
  • Species Specificity
  • Spider Bites / diagnosis
  • Spider Bites / epidemiology
  • Spider Bites / pathology*
  • Spider Bites / therapy
  • Spiders*