How informative are case studies of spider bites in the medical literature?

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Abstract

We analyzed the reliability and information content of 134 medical case studies on spider bites, published in 91 journal articles. Overall, we found that only 22% of these studies fulfilled the criteria for a verified spider bite. This means that the majority of such case studies cannot be attributed to a given spider species and usually not even to a spider. Their scientific value is negligible, moreover, such publications are even dangerous because they suggest incorrect conclusions. Secondly, we found that such case studies usually do not follow an obvious structure and many details on the development of symptoms, therapy and healing process are widely lacking. So even for verified spider bites, the comparability of case studies is limited. We discuss the obvious failure of a reviewing process for case studies and give recommendations how to increase the currently low information content of medical case studies on spider bites.

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