A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of a Highly Purified Equine F(ab)2 Antibody Black Widow Spider Antivenom

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Study objective:

Black widow spider antivenom has never been tested in a randomized clinical trial, to our knowledge. We explore various efficacy measures for a novel F(ab)2 antivenom in patients with moderate to severe pain caused by black widow spider envenomation.


A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, clinical trial was conducted in 12 academic emergency departments. We included patients at least 10 years old with moderate to severe latrodectism. Subjects received either a single intravenous infusion of antivenom or placebo. Pain was assessed with the visual analog scale. The primary efficacy outcome was the difference in pre- and posttreatment visual analog scale score. Prospectively defined secondary outcomes included treatment failures and time to clinically important decrease in pain.


Twenty-four subjects were enrolled between October 2005 and October 2006; 13 were randomized to antivenom and 11 to placebo. The median change in visual analog scale at 150 minutes posttreatment was −50.0 mm (Interquartile Range [IQR] −67, −41 mm) in the antivenom treatment group and −46.0 mm (IQR −51, 0 mm) in the placebo treatment group (P=.14). There were 7 treatment failures (64%; 95% confidence interval 35% to 92%) in the placebo group and 3 (23%; 95% confidence interval 0.2% to 46%) in the antivenom group (P=.06). The median time to a clinically important decrease in pain after treatment was shorter in the antivenom group compared with the placebo group (30 minutes [IQR 30, 60 minutes] versus 90 minutes [IQR 30, 90 minutes]; P=.03). No serious adverse events or deaths were reported.


Although the overall reduction in pain was similar for antivenom- and placebo-treated subjects, antivenom reduced pain more rapidly than placebo. No significant adverse events occurred in either group.

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