Funnelweb spiders

A robustus (Sydney Funnel-web spider) is a large aggressive spider which has caused the deaths of more than a dozen people inhabiting an area within an approximate 160 km radius of Sydney. The male is more dangerous than the female (in contrast to other species) and are inclined to roam after rainfall, and in doing so may enter houses and seek shelter among clothes or bedding and give a painful bite when disturbed.

Bites do not always result in envenomation but envenomation may be rapidly fatal. The early features of the envenomation syndrome include nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating, salivation and abdominal pain. Life threatening features are usually heralded by the appearance of muscle fasciculation at the bite site which quickly involves distant muscle groups. Hypertension, tacharrhythmias and vasoconstriction occur. The victim may lapse into coma, develop hypoventilation and have difficulty maintaining an airway free of saliva. Finally, respiratory failure and severe hypotension culminate in hypoxaemia of the brain and heart. The syndrome may develop within several hours but it may be more rapid.

Treatment consists of the application of a pressure-immobilisation bandage, intravenous administration of antivenom and support of vital functions which may include artificial airway support and mechanical ventilation. No deaths or serious morbidity has been reported since introduction of the antivenom in the early 1980s.

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