April 27th, 2010
11:19 AM ET

Girl stung by venomous box jellyfish 'shouldn't be alive'

A biologist researches the lethal nature of the box jellyfish.

To call 10-year-old Rachel Shardlow a survivor is an understatement.

In December, the girl tangled with a box jellyfish, one of the world's most venomous creatures, in the Calliope River near Gladstone, Australia.

"Usually when you see people who have been stung by box jellyfish with that number of the tentacle contacts on their body, it's usually in a morgue," Jamie Seymour, a zoology and tropical ecology associate professor at James Cook University told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The creature didn't just sting the girl. It enveloped her: Its tentacles wrapped around her limbs and wouldn't let go. She couldn't see or breathe. The creature, which is capable of killing an adult in four minutes, wrapped its tentacles tighter and knocked her unconscious.

"I don't know of anybody in the entire literature where we've studied this where someone has had such an extensive sting that has survived," Seymour told ABC. "When I first saw the pictures of the injuries I just went, 'you know to be honest, this kid should not be alive'. I mean they are horrific."

After several weeks in the hospital Shardlow is still feeling the effects - but the fact she is feeling anything at all - let alone doing as well as she is baffles Seymour. For now, besides scarring and memory loss, she is doing well, her family told ABC.

ABC: Young stinger victim speaks out

There have been others who have survived being stung by the deadly jellyfish, but Seymour said many of them are stung quickly, but not to the extent Shardlow was and with as many tentacles wrapped around them, Seymour said.

Seymour and other Queensland researchers received a $40,000 grant to investigate just how lethal is the venom of Irukandji and its relative box jellyfish. They will also look for treatments to help those like Shardlow who are stung by them.

The jellyfish, found often in the Great Barrier Reef, can have as many as 15 tentacles on each corner of its bodies with nearly 5,000 stinging cells, according to a guide to sea creatures posted on the Great Barrier Reef site.

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Filed under: Australia • Health • Web Pulse • World
soundoff (725 Responses)
  1. Carl

    Sorry, God-lovers, but why would your so-called merciful god, having some plan for her, allow the girl to be stung so extensively, and then, and only then decide to keep her alive? This deity of yours must have a really strange sense of humor, or be just plain cruel – not the same one you keep describing in your praises.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    Brian was hoping that god would fix his spelling mistakes for him.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Christine

    I hope her long-term prognosis is good.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. James

    Re, post 1 – I think the girl would agree that a greater miracle would have been not to be stung at all. Poor thing...

    April 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. notsure

    waking up everyday is a miracle. stop trolling.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. KC

    @ D. Solomon: I love your logic. I can't explain it, so it must be "God"! How dare you ask for proof when you can't provide your own? Couldn't it be possible that this box jelly was simply impotent? Have "all the medical experts" really been consulted on this matter? You're just a simpleton who nobody should take seriously.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. God

    This is God, I sent that jellyfish to attack this little, innocent, beautiful girl, to start this conversation, because I am an attention H... Thank you for your time. On a side, note, glad the girl is ok 🙂

    April 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. trinityknot

    to D.Solomon:

    So, I suppose that all of the other people who have died from Box Jellyfish stings deserved it? They must have done something wrong, right? Why didn't God save them too?
    Gimme a break....

    April 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. M.Hunt

    wow d. solomon you take this as proof of god? do you know what your comment proves to me, that people are ignorant as ever. small mutations in our genetic make up occur every day in and this little girl might have a small mutation that allows her body to take in and kill poison/toxins. im sure when you ask these medical experts if god saved this little girl they will be sure to tell you your god did not. i wish the best for this little girl and her family

    April 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jared

    It's just too bad God couldn't have done something about her scarring and memory loss. Jesus cures lepers, but God makes Jellyfish attack little kids, saves them, and then leaves them scarred for life.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gina in San Jose

    So, are you saying that GOD was there for this little girl, but not for all the other people who have died from jelly fish stings?

    April 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bobby

    The girl is considered to be precious, so the girl should be keep to no one.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Phil

    To Rachel, I wish you a speedy recovery.

    To D. Solomon, You prove of the existence of God by assuming that medical scientists predicted she would die and scientists are infallible, so, therefore, God must have intervened to make her live.

    Do you also believe the infallible scientists when they say that humans evolved from apes over thousands of years?

    A basic tenet of science is that we continue to learn by challenging our assumptions. Scientists are studying the Box Jellyfish to learn why the girl lived when they predicted she would die. This is how science gets better and better at explaining the world. But religion is stagnant because it is based on unquestioning faith instead of reason.

    Let's put the religious nonsense behind us, open our eyes, understand the world better, and live our lives based on knowledge instead of superstition.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Guest

    It is He(God) Who gives life, and causes death, and to Him(God) you (all) shall return. Quran(10:56)

    Verily, God! Unto Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, He gives life and He causes death. And besides God you have neither any Wali (protector or guardian) nor any helper. Quran(9:116)

    And certainly We(God)! We(GOD) it is Who give life, and cause death, and We are the Inheritors.

    And it is He(GOD) Who gives life and causes death, and His(God's) is the alternation of night and day. Will you not then understand? Quran(23:80)

    April 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sharene

    Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is lord...

    April 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
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