Ant sting reaction study reveals main culprit
A STUDY mapping cases of ant sting anaphylaxis has shown the problem is focused on Australia’s south-eastern states, with jack jumper ants the usual culprits.
The research took in location and trigger species data for more than 730 ant anaphylaxis episodes, involving around 380 patients, reported during 2006–07.
Of almost 300 patients where the stinging ant was identified, most (89%) involved the Myrmecia ant species – jack jumpers or bulldog ants – while 11% of the cases involved green-head ants (Rhytidoponera metallica).
Jack jumpers – in the Myrmecia pilosula species complex – were involved in 176 cases, as the most common cause of anaphylaxis.
“The jack jumper ant (JJA) is a ‘species complex’ comprising seven closely-related species with almost identical morphology,” the authors wrote.
“JJA reactions occurred in Tasmania, southern coastal WA, South Australia, Victoria and southern coastal and mountainous regions of NSW and the Australian Capital Territory.”
Reactions to bulldog ants occurred in the same areas as JJA reactions, and also extended further inland and into northern parts of NSW and in WA as far north as Geraldton.
Green-head ant cases were clustered in northern coastal NSW and south-east Queensland.
JJA venom immunotherapy is funded by the Tasmanian state government and can be supplied to interstate hospitals though this was not subsidised by the PBS, the authors said.
“No venom extracts suitable for human use are available for other Australian ant species at this time,” they added.
MJA 2011; 195: 69-73
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