Sometimes, when you’re in Rome, you shouldn’t act like Romans. This case report comes from Taiwan, where the authors got to take care of this intriguing case. A 49 year old male patient presented to the hospital with bullous lesions on his upper extremities. He noticed them upon waking up from his bender of 600mL of 53% ABV fortified wine. Not surprisingly, he slept on the floor the night previously, and was apparently wedged in a narrow space.
Of note, he also had neurologic deficits of his bilateral hands. Labs showed leukocytosis, rhabdomyolysis, and acute kidney injury. While all of them could be explained by blacking out in an awkward position, the confounding variable was what was in the wine.
You see, many traditional Chinese therapies involve alcohol with plant or animal “infusions.” This particular wine was made with a 14cm Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans centipede. And since there are reports of skin necrosis, neuropathies, rhabdomyolysis, and kidney injury from centipede venom in the literature, there is a possibility that some of his condition was secondary to the centipede. In the end though, it is still most likely that it was all related to the alcohol, as I can’t find data showing that centipede venom is stable in either alcohol or stomach acid.
All the same, I wouldn’t recommend you drink a little or a lot of a wine made from a venomous creature. While these wines are not as prevalent today as they were historically, you can still go into stores in China and Southeast Asia and find bottles containing snakes, scorpions, centipedes, and other animals.
Wang IK, Hsu SP, Chi CC, Lee KF, Lin PY, Chang HW, Chuang FR. Rhabdomyolysis, acute renal failure, and multiple focal neuropathies after drinking alcohol soaked with centipede. Ren Fail. 2004 Jan;26(1):93-7. [PMID 15083930]
Lecture: Centipedes, caterpillars and other creepy crawlies. EBM Gone EWild
EBM Gone Wild