24 July, 2012

Scorpionism in Iran - An updated review

Hemiscorpius lepturus is the most dangerous scorpion in Iran. Male (left) and female (top). Photos Morteza Johari (C)

 There have been several published papers on scorpions of medical importance in Iran and it is well known that Hemiscorpius lepturus Peters, 1861 and Androctonus crassicauda (Oliver, 1807) are the most dangerous species causing both deaths and serious mortality, but literature on other species have been scarce and7or anecdotal.

Rouhullah Dehghani and Behrooz Fathi have now published an updated review on Iranian scorpionism discussing current knowledge on the medical importance of all relevant Iranian species. The paper has also information on the distribution of mentioned species and sting treatment. A few color pictures illustrate how bad H. lepturus envenomations can get in children.

It should be noticed that this paper report of of death of a 10 year old boy attributed to Orthochirus scrobiculosus (Grube, 1873). As far as I know, this is the first published case of serious envenomations in this genus, which usually is considered docile and harmless. It is tempting to ask if it is possible that the scorpions involved has not been correctly identified (maybe an juvenile A. crassicauda was involved), but until the medical status of this genus has been properly investigated it is important to be careful with scorpions belonging to Orthochirus.

Among Middle Eastern countries, at least 52 species of scorpions, especially dangerous types, have been reported in Iran. This is more than any other country in the region. In addition, in Iran the recorded scorpion stings from 2001 to 2009 were more than 42,500 per year, of which, approximately 19.5 deaths have been reported each year, mostly in spring and summer. About 10 species are responsible for the reported envenoming which belong to the Buthidae family apart from Hemiscorpius lepturus which is a Hemiscorpiidae. The Buthidae family includes: Androctonus crassicauda, Mesobuthus eupeus, Odontobuthus doriae, Hottentotta saulcyi, Hottentotta schach, Compsobuthus matthiesseni, Orthochirus scrobiculosus, Apistobuthus pterygocercus and Olivierus caucasicus. A. crassicauda and H. lepturus are usually cited as the most dangerous species among Iranian scorpions. This article focuses on the main Iranian scorpions and their geographical distribution, especially those which are medically important and considered to be the more dangerous to human, and also attempts to demonstrate an accurate magnitude of scorpion stings in Iran.

Dehghani R, Fathi B. Scorpion sting in Iran: A review. Toxicon. 2012;60(5):919-33. [Subscription required for full text]

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