Fatal anaphylaxis due to fire ant stings

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1998 Jun;19(2):137-42. doi: 10.1097/00000433-199806000-00007.


Imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri) are the source of a potentially lethal environmental hazard in the southeastern United States. Because of their resistance to natural and chemical control, fire ants can overwhelm their environment, causing destruction of land and animals. Fire ants can also cause a variety of health problems in humans, ranging from simple stings to anaphylaxis and death. We present a case of a 30-year-old woman who died of anaphylaxis following multiple fire ant stings. At autopsy, multiple skin lesions characteristic of those produced by fire ant stings were present on her arm. Postmortem blood samples were positive for imported fire ant venom-specific IgE antibodies (5654 ng/ml) and tryptase (12 ng/ml). Deaths caused by imported fire ant stings are rare but are likely to become more common as the fire ant population expands. In this report, we review deaths due to fire ant stings, discuss postmortem laboratory findings, and stress the importance of recognizing the characteristic skin lesions produced by fire ants.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anaphylaxis / blood
  • Anaphylaxis / etiology*
  • Anaphylaxis / pathology
  • Animals
  • Ant Venoms / adverse effects
  • Ant Venoms / immunology
  • Ants*
  • Cause of Death
  • Chymases
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Insect Bites and Stings / blood
  • Insect Bites and Stings / complications*
  • Insect Bites and Stings / pathology
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Serine Endopeptidases / blood
  • Tryptases


  • Ant Venoms
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • chymase 2
  • Chymases
  • Tryptases