If you live in the desert southwest, you’ve probably either seen a scorpion or heard stories of people finding or being stung by scorpions in their homes or other developed areas. While most scorpion stings are painful, only one scorpion found in this area is considered to be life threatening – the bark scorpion. That’s why researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson are hoping they will soon have U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of an experimental scorpion antivenin.
Like spiders and bees, scorpions are arthropods. This means they have an exterior skeleton or shell instead of an internal skeleton and spine. Bark scorpions are considered to be relatively small scorpions. When fully grown, they are only an inch and a half long and are typically golden-yellow or light brown. They are also characterized by a slender tail and pincers. They are also known to be one of the best climbers of all scorpions, which means they are sometimes found high on walls or ceilings and can sometimes drop from the ceiling into areas that were considered safe, such as a baby’s crib. Scorpions tend to be active at night, especially during the hot months of summer.
Bark scorpion stings are usually very painful, but may cause minimal swelling and little external evidence of the sting. The area around the sting my feel numb or may tingle, and the area may be very sensitive to changes in temperature or pressure.
Most healthy adults can treat a bark scorpion sting at home with basic first aid. But young children and older adults in poor health may have much more severe reactions including uncontrolled body jerking, wild eye movements, and difficulty breathing which are all symptoms of nerve poisoning. In many cases, young children will need to be hospitalized to control these symptoms while the scorpion venom works its way out of the body.
That’s where the new drug being tested at the U of A can help. The medication, called Anascorp, has been in use in Mexico for some time. The U of A study is underway to try to get approval for the antivenin in the United States.