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November 1, 2000

Evolution of the Fire Ant Lesion

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Mississippi Department of Health, Jackson (Dr Goddard); Mississippi State University, Starkville (Dr Jarratt); and the Dermatopathology Reference Laboratory, Lexington, Ky (Dr de Castro).


Photo/Essay Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(17):2162-2163. doi:10.1001/jama.284.17.2162

The term "imported fire ant" refers to several members of the genus Solenopsis (order Hymenoptera)—including Solenopsis invicta, Solenopsis richteri, and a hybrid of the 2 often referred to as S invicta x richteri.1,2 The most widespread of these is S invicta, which infests more than 300 million acres covering much of the southern United States.3 Compared with most native ants, all 3 species are aggressive and, when disturbed, will actively sting intruders and cause similar kinds of local skin reactions.4,5 Rarely, some people may become hypersensitive to the proteins in fire ant venom, leading to allergic reactions—even anaphylactic shock—on subsequent stings.5,6 Other sequelae associated with fire ant stings are secondary infections, particularly in persons with diabetes or compromised circulation and, very rarely, neurologic effects, such as seizures and neuropathies.7 Increasingly, fire ants have been implicated in indoor attacks on persons in extended care facilities,810 where patients typically have sustained hundreds or thousands of stings. Dr Goddard is aware of 9 other fire ant stinging events that have occurred in nursing homes (unpublished data, September 2000). In light of the increase in stinging attacks on nursing home patients, information about the clinical course of fire ant stings is needed.

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