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Bristleworm Sting

What is a bristleworm?

  • 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:

  • pain,
  • burning sensation,
  • redness,
  • swelling, and
  • a rash.

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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/29/2016
Medical Author:

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