Poisonous Amazon caterpillars kill Canadian

July 15th, 2008

It was a freak encounter with tragic consequences.
A Canadian woman who had travelled to South America last year died 10 days after stepping, barefoot, on venomous caterpillars, a team of Edmonton doctors reported Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Her case should be a cautionary tale for people embarking on exotic trips to far-flung places, her doctors and others suggest.
“Obviously the more exotic we get in where we travel, the more opportunities there are that we’re going to interface with bizarre things,” said Dr. Kevin Kain, a Toronto-based travel and tropical medicine expert who did not treat the woman but was asked to comment on the report.
“There are some bad things out there. They’re rare, but they’re bad.”

The woman, who was in northeastern Peru on an organized jungle trek, accidentally stepped on five caterpillars of the Lonomia genus, which secrete a toxin that causes haemorrhaging in humans.

There are two species of the caterpillars known to cause haemorrhagic syndromes in humans. Found in parts of South America, including Venezuela and Brazil, the insects emit venom through bristles or hairs that cover their bodies and have been blamed for many deaths in the Amazon.

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