Bristleworm Sting Overview
Of the many species of worms, the bristleworm is one of the most dangerous. Bristleworms are elongated segmented worms and belong to the phylum of Annelid worms, class Polychaeta. They can grow up to 1 foot in length (30 cm) and a width of 1 inch (2.54 cm). Each segment contains a pair of bristles. Although bristleworms are not aggressive, they may bite when handled, and the bristles or spines (termed chaetea) can penetrate skin (sting when touched). The spines penetrate the skin like cactus spines and can be difficult to remove, and usually cause the most symptoms listed below. Use heavy gloves if handling these worms is necessary. Bristleworms are often found in tidal waters under rocks and corals in tropical areas throughout the world. Over 10,000 species of bristleworms (Polychaeta) have been identified.
Bristleworm Sting Symptoms
The bristleworm spines when touched can sting and cause:
The spines do not have any associated venom producing cells so there is no fear of additional "venom" being released with removal of the spines.
Scott D. Fell, DO, FAAEM
Must Read Articles Related to Wilderness: Bristleworm Sting
Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape
Exposure to aquatic life encompasses a variety of clinical situations.