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Caterpillars more deadly than snakes

A caterpillar has killed a woman in Brazil, prompting calls by doctors to have the larvae declared a public health hazard. Death by caterpillar is now more common than by snakebite in some areas of the country.

The killer caterpillars, Lonomia obliqua, have hairs containing poison which stops blood clotting. The woman, 52, had brushed her arm accidentally against a caterpillar, a report in tomorrow's Lancet says. She felt burning of the skin, headache and weakness. Over the next two days she developed bruising and vomited. She was admitted to the hospital in a coma where tests showed she suffered bleeding in the brain. She died two days later. Liz Hunt