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May 1963

Erythema Multiforme from Tedania Ignis: Report of a Case and An Experimental Study of the Mechanism of Cutaneous Irritation from the Fire Sponge

Author Affiliations


Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine; Massachusetts Memorial Hospitals, Boston University Medical Center (Dr. Yaffee); Massachusetts Memorial Hospitals, Boston University Medical Center (Dr. Stargardter).

Arch Dermatol. 1963;87(5):601-604. doi:10.1001/archderm.1963.01590170059009

A 33-year-old white male developed an erythematous reaction on the palm after prying a specimen of Tedania ignis, the Bermuda fire sponge, from a rock. Ten days later he developed a severe erythema multiforme reaction. Patch-testing reactions to 1% saline suspensions were associated with severe nonfatal anaphylactoid episodes on two occasions.

An experimental study was performed with 12 subjects. There were no reactions to suspension of 1%, 25%, 50% in all subjects. Two of four subjects reacted with dermatitis to a patch test with the solid fire sponge lasting only 14 hours.

In Part 2 provocative patch tests to 50% saline suspension of fire sponge caused a reaction in 6 of 12 subjects. These cases suggested a primary irritant mechanism.

No circulating antibody was detected using the platelet antibody technique.

Although the complete mechanism of cutaneous reactions to the Bermuda fire sponge remains obscure, our experiments indicate that the reaction is caused by a chemical substance rather than by direct irritation of the surface spicules. Further, the reaction seems to be caused by a primary irritant chemical which may possibly induce allergic hypersensitivity in specifically highly sensitive subjects.

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