Friday, January 1, 2010

Tarantula Hairs are a well known hazard in zoos

An eye-opening tale about the hazards of keeping pet tarantulas

Here’s a medical mystery – and a cautionary tale – for all you tarantula owners out there, courtesy of the new issue of the Lancet:

                                         Photo By:

A 29-year-old British man with a red, watery and photophobic eye sought treatment from his general practitioner. The doctor presumed the patient had conjunctivitis (also known as “pink eye”) and prescribed an antibiotic ointment.

However, his symptoms persisted three weeks later, so he went to an ophthalmology practice at St. James’s University Hospital in Leeds. The specialists initially considered a very similar diagnosis of viral keratoconjunctivitis, which involves inflammation of the cornea as well as the conjunctiva.

Then they examined the patient’s eye under higher magnification and found “fine hair-like projections” at “varying depths within the cornea.”


The ophthalmologists weren’t sure what to make of them, so they asked the patient. He instantly recalled an incident from three weeks earlier, when he was cleaning the glass tank (or terrarium) that housed his pet Chilean Rose tarantula.

Here’s what went down, as described in the Lancet:

While his attention was focused on a stubborn stain, he sensed movement in the terrarium. He turned his head and found that the tarantula, which was in close proximity, had released a “mist of hairs” which hit his eyes and face.

                                                      Hairy Legs

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It turns out that many tarantula breeds, including this one, are known to shoot fine barbed hairs at their attackers as a self-defense mechanism. Mystery solved! The patient was diagnosed with ophthalmia nodosa, a condition in which the eye reacts to “insect or vegetable material,” the ophthalmologists reported.

The doctors tried to remove the hairs from the patient’s cornea but even


1 comment:

  1. Sadly, Fuzzy (the Chilean in my pic) is now in spider heaven eating fat crickets all day - she got stuck in a bad molt and died.

    - TJ