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Jellyfish Sting Newsletters: Number 29 - July 2003

  1. Segura-Puertas L, Suàrez-Morales E, Celis L. A checklist of the medusa (hydrozoa, scyphozoa and cubozoa) of Mexico. Zootaxa 194:1-15, 2003.

    A list of 169 medusa species in 45 families recorded in Mexican waters is presented for the first time. 86 species (50.8%) were found in the Pacific Ocean, 75 species (44.3%) in the Gulf of Mexico, and 88 (52%) in the Mexican Caribbean Sea. It is expected that the number of species will grow as surveys that include the hrydroid stages and their laboratory-released medusa, as well as benthic and deep-living medusofauna are undertaken in both the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts of Mexico.

    One taxonomist told me that this was an excellent piece of work.

  2. O’Reilly GM, Isbister GK, Lawrie PM, Treston GJ, Currie BJ. Prospective study of jellyfish stings from tropical Australia, including the major box jellyfish Chironex fleckeri. Med. J. Aust 175:652-655, 2001.

    Although most jellyfish stings presenting to Royal Darwin Hospital were caused by C. fleckeri, severe envenomation was rare. There was a strong association between clinical features and sticky-tape identification of nematocysts. Delayed hypersensitivity was common after C. fleckeri stings. These episodes consisted of pruritic, painless recurrences of the eruption appearing 5 or more days post sting.

  3. Nagai H, Oshiro N, Takuwa-Kuroda K, Iwanage S, Nozaki M, Nakajima T. A new polypeptide toxin from the nematocyst venom of an Okinawan sea anemone Phyllodiscus semoni (Japanese name “unbachi-isoginchaku”). Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 66(12):2621-2625, 2002.

    The venomous sea anemone Phyllodiscus semoni causes cases of severe stinging. Phyllodiscus semoni toxin 20A (PsTX-20A), a hemolytic and lethal polypeptide (20 kDa), from the nematocyst venom of this species was isolated for the first time. Furthermore, the cDNA encoding of PsTX-20A was sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequence of PsTX-20A showed that this toxin was a new member of the actinoporin family, which consists of several cytolytic polypeptides originating from sea anemones. PsTX-20A showed lethal toxicity to the shrimp Palamon paucidens when administered via intraperitoneal injection (LD50, 50 mg/kg) and hemolytic activity toward 0.8% sheep red blood cells (ED50, 80 ng/ml).

  4. Huynh TT, Seymour J, Pereira P, Mulcahy P, Cullen P, Carrette T, Little M. Severity of Irukandji syndrome and nematocyst identification from skin scrapings. Med. J. Aust 178:38-41, 2003.

    This is the first published report of Carukia barnesi being successfully identified as a stinging animal from skin scrapings. Most patients with identifiable cnidomes in their skin who experience Irukandji syndrome were stung by Carukia barnesi, which causes a wide range of illness, including cardiac dysfunction. The finding of a cnidome not consistent with Carukia barnesi in the setting of Irukandji syndrome makes it possible to identify other species of jellyfish which may also cause this syndrome.

  5. Bailey PM, Little M, Jelinek GA, Wilce JA. Jellyfish envenoming syndromes: unknown toxic mechanisms and unproven therapies. Med. J. Aust 178:34-37, 2003.

    Interest in envenoming syndromes caused by Australian jellyfish has been intense since early 2002 when two tourists in Queensland died of Irukandji syndrome. Current knowledge of these envenoming syndromes, mechanisms of venom action and therapy, focusing on the deadly box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri, and the array of jellyfish thought to cause the Irukandji syndrome is reviewed. Unfortunately, current understanding of jellyfish venom activity is very limited, and many treatments are unproven and based on anecdote.

  6. Carrette T, Cullen P, Little M, Pereira PL, Seymour J. Temperature effects of box jellyfish venom: a possible treatment for envenomed patients? Med. J. Aust 177:654-654, 2002.

    Exposure to heat dramatically reduces the lethality of extracted C. fleckeri venom. Although heat application may be of limited use in treating C. fleckeri envenoming because of the speed of symptom onset, its use in other box-jellyfish envenomings, such as Irukandji syndrome, requires investigation.

  7. Greenwood PG, Balboni IM, Lohmann C. A sea anemone’s environment affects discharge of its isolated nematocysts. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 134B:275-281,2002.

    Nematocysts were isolated from individuals of Calliactis tricolor maintained under different feeding schedules or in different salinities in an attempt to determine how these culture conditions influence the discharge of isolated nematocysts. In addition, the discharge frequencies of nematocysts isolated from two different populations of sea anemones found in two different environments were also compared. Undischarged acontial nematocysts were isolated by extrusion into 1 M sodium citrate and were then treated with 5 mM EGTA to initiate discharge. Nematocysts isolated from anemones maintained under three different feeding schedules showed significantly different responses to the test solution. Nematocysts isolated from anemones maintained in two different salinities did not differ significantly in discharge frequency. Nematocysts isolated from individuals from two separate populations of C. tricolor responded significantly differently to 5 mM EGTA and to deionized water, and these responses also depended upon the isolation solution used. Environmental conditions are known to have an impact on the physiological state of most organisms, but this is the first study providing evidence that the environment or feeding state of an anemone affects discharge of isolated nematocysts. Inherent differences in ionic and osmotic characteristics among nematocysts could explain some of the ambiguities when comparing past studies of isolated nematocyst discharge.

  8. Fenner PJ, Hadok JC. Fatal envenomation by jellyfish causing Irukandi syndrome. Med. J. Aust 177:362-363, 2002.

    The first of two recent deaths from Irukandji syndrome was reported. A 58-year-old male tourist was stung on the face and chest by an unidentified jellyfish in shallow water off the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland. He developed muscle cramps, sweating, anxiety, nausea and hypertension, and died 30 hours later from intracerebral haemorrhage.

  9. Ramasamy S, Isbister GK, Seymour JE, Hodgson WC. The in vitro effects of two chirodropid (Chironex fleckeri and Chiropsalmus sp.) venoms: efficacy of box jellyfish antivenom. Toxicon 41:703-711, 2003.

    Although antivenom was able to neutralize the neurotoxic effects of both species, and the myotoxic effects of Chiropsalmus sp., when added prior to venom, it was unable to reverse the effects after venom addition. This suggests that antivenom is unlikely to be useful in the treatment of neurotoxic or myotoxic effects in patients, although these effects are rarely seen clinically.

    The efficacy of the antivenom has been questioned for years probably because of batch variation. This study supports the idea that we need better investigation on this question and more careful, critical observation of the patients treated.

Published Letters 

  1. Corkeron MA. Magnesium infusion to treat Irukandji syndrome. eMedical Journal of Australia 178:411;2003.

    This is the first report of the use of magnesium sulfate to treat Irukandji syndrome.


  1. The San Francisco Chronicle on May 7, 2003 reported a large red jellyfish sighted near the California coast. Subsequent search on the internet revealed that a manuscript was accepted by Marine Biology in January 2003. This paper was entitled Matsumoto GI, Raskoff K, Lindsay DJ. Tiburonia granrojo n. sp., a mesopelagic scyphomedusa from the Pacific Ocean representing the type of a new subfamily (Class Scyphozoa, Order Semaeostomeae, Family Ulmaridae, Subfamily Tiburoniinae subfam nov.). Marine Biology 2003. 

  2. Giuseppina La Spada writes that there were large blooms of Pelagia noctiluca in the Straits of Messina in 1999 and also in 2003.

    This group has submitted a good paper to Chemistry and Ecology (an email journal) describing the hemolytic action of Aiptasea mirabilis nematocyst venom.

  3. There is an Irukandji study group organized in Queensland to track the occurrence of jellyfish and patients as well as monitor therapy.

  4. Maj. James D. Grady, M.D. notes that two more cases in 2003 of the Irukanji syndrome occurred at Key West in Navy divers on night patrol. He and I are reporting 2 more which occurred in 2002 following those of the late 1990’s. There is a phenomenon here!