Millipede Envenomation

Millipede Envenomation

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Millipedes are elongated cylindrical segmented arthropods that bear two pairs of legs per body segment. They are found in a wide variety of habitats. They are generally very slow-moving creatures and are relatively innocuous. Falling into the class Diplopoda and the phylum Arthropoda, millipedes comprise some 7000 species. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

See the images below.

Millipedes do not have biting mouthparts or fangs. Their medical importance comes from their ability to secrete an irritating defensive liquid from pores along their sides. Such secretions contain benzoquinones, aldehydes, hydrocyanic acid, phenols, terpenoids, nitroethylbenzenes, and other substances. [8, 9, 10, 11, 12]

Some species are capable of squirting these liquids to distances of up to 80 cm. [13] Most envenomations occur from direct contact of the millipede with the skin.

Millipede envenomations are self-limited. No deaths have been documented from millipede exposures, and it is unlikely that such an exposure could be fatal, even to a small child. [14]  

Hare T. Poisonous Dwellers of the Desert. Tucson, AZ: Southwest Parks and Monuments Association; 1995.

Peters S. A Colour Atlas of Arthropods in Clinical Medicine. Barcelona, Spain: Wolfe Publishing Ltd; 1992.

Nguyen AD. Discovery of a new millipede species in northern Vietnam, and the proposal of a new genus, Parariukiaria (Diplopoda, Polydesmida, Xystodesmidae). Zootaxa. 2016 Jun 9. 4121 (3):331-6. [Medline].

Golovatch S, Evsyukov A, Reip H. The millipede family Polydesmidae in the Caucasus (Diplopoda: Polydesmida). Zootaxa. 2016 Mar 1. 4085 (1):1-51. [Medline].

Wynne JJ, Shear WA. A new millipede, Austrotyla awishoshola n. sp., (Diplopoda, Chordeumatida, Conotylidae) from New Mexico, USA, and the importance of cave moss gardens as refugial habitats. Zootaxa. 2016 Feb 25. 4084 (2):285-92. [Medline].

Golovatch S, Evsyukov A, Reip H. The millipede family Polydesmidae in the Caucasus (Diplopoda: Polydesmida). Zootaxa. 2016 Mar 1. 4085 (1):1-51. [Medline].

Nguyen AD, Golovatch SI. The millipede genus Enghoffosoma Golovatch, 1993 recorded in Vietnam for the first time, with descriptions of three new species (Diplopoda, Polydesmida, Paradoxosomatidae). Zootaxa. 2016 Jul 20. 4139 (2):151-66. [Medline].

Williams LA, Singh PD, Caleb-Williams LS. Biology and biological action of the defensive secretion from a Jamaican millipede. Naturwissenschaften. 1997. 84(4):143-4. [Medline].

Shimizu N, Kuwahara Y, Yakumaru R, Tanabe T. n-Hexyl laurate and fourteen related fatty acid esters: new secretory compounds from the julid millipede, Anaulaciulus sp. J Chem Ecol. 2012 Jan. 38(1):23-8. [Medline].

Stanković S, Dimkić I, Vujisić L, Pavković-Lučić S, Jovanović Z, Stević T, et al. Chemical Defence in a Millipede: Evaluation and Characterization of Antimicrobial Activity of the Defensive Secretion from Pachyiulus hungaricus (Karsch, 1881) (Diplopoda, Julida, Julidae). PLoS One. 2016 Dec 1. 11 (12):e0167249. [Medline].

Hash JM, Millar JG, Heraty JM, Harwood JF, Brown BV. Millipede Defensive Compounds Are a Double-Edged Sword: Natural History of the Millipede-Parasitic Genus Myriophora Brown (Diptera: Phoridae). J Chem Ecol. 2017 Feb. 43 (2):198-206. [Medline].

Makarov SE, Bodner M, Reineke D, Vujisić LV, Todosijević MM, Antić DŽ, et al. Chemical Ecology of Cave-Dwelling Millipedes: Defensive Secretions of the Typhloiulini (Diplopoda, Julida, Julidae). J Chem Ecol. 2017 Apr. 43 (4):317-326. [Medline].

Erickson TB, Marquez A. Arthropod envenomation and parasitism. Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2012. Chapter 50.

Hendrickson RG. Millipede exposure. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2005. 43(3):211-2. [Medline].

Mason GH, Thomson HD, Fergin P, Anderson R. Spot diagnosis. The burning millipede. Med J Aust. 1994 Jun 6. 160(11):718, 726. [Medline].

Radford AJ. Giant millipede burns in Papua New Guinea. P N G Med J. 1976 Sep. 18(3):138-41. [Medline].

Radford AJ. Millipede burns in man. Trop Geogr Med. 1975 Sep. 27(3):279-87. [Medline].

Dar NR, Raza N, Rehman SB. Millipede burn at an unusual site mimicking child abuse in an 8-year-old girl. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2008 Jun. 47(5):490-2. [Medline].

De Capitani EM, Vieira RJ, Bucaretchi F, Fernandes LC, Toledo AS, Camargo AC. Human accidents involving Rhinocricus spp., a common millipede genus observed in urban areas of Brazil. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2011 Mar. 49(3):187-90. [Medline].

Verma AK, Bourke B. Millipede burn masquerading as trash foot in a paediatric patient. ANZ J Surg. 2014 May. 84(5):388-90. [Medline].

Hudson BJ, Parsons GA. Giant millipede ‘burns’ and the eye. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1997 Mar-Apr. 91(2):183-5. [Medline].

Steven A Lorber, MD, FAAEM, FACEP Assistant Professor, Interim Chief, Division of Emergency Medicine, St Louis University Hospital

Steven A Lorber, MD, FAAEM, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Preeti Dalawari, MD, MSPH, FAAEM, FACEP Associate Professor, Director of Research, Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, St Louis University School of Medicine; Attending Physician in Emergency Medicine, St Louis University Hospital

Preeti Dalawari, MD, MSPH, FAAEM, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: Academy for Women in Academic Emergency Medicine, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD Regional Director of Pharmacy, Sacred Heart and St Joseph’s Hospitals

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Richard H Sinert, DO Professor of Emergency Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Research Director, State University of New York College of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Vice-Chair in Charge of Research, Department of Emergency Medicine, Kings County Hospital Center

Richard H Sinert, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Joe Alcock, MD, MS Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

Joe Alcock, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robert L Norris, MD Professor Emeritus, Department of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center

Robert L Norris, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

James Li, MD Former Assistant Professor, Division of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Board of Directors, Remote Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Millipede Envenomation

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