A 10-year-old Australian girl who survived being stung by the world's most venomous creature, the deadly box jellyfish, may have rewritten medical history, an expert said Tuesday.
Schoolgirl Rachael Shardlow lost consciousness after being badly stung by the jellyfish while swimming in a river in eastern Queensland state with her brother in December, but lived to tell the tale.
"When I first saw the pictures of the injuries I just went, 'you know to be honest, this kid should not be alive'," said Jamie Seymour, professor of zoology and tropical ecology at James Cook University.
"I mean they are horrific. 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," he told public broadcaster, the ABC.
Often deadly, the box jellyfish has long, trailing tentacles and is able to squeeze through even the smallest of nets as it is only the size of a fingernail.
The venom is so overpoweringly painful that victims often go in shock and drown or die of heart failure before reaching shore.
There is no effective antivenom for its sting, which attacks the heart, nervous system and skin, inducing shooting muscle pain, vomiting and a rapid rise in blood pressure.
Rachael was pulled from the Calliope River, near the town of Gladstone, by her 13-year-old brother with the jellyfish's tentacles wrapped around her legs.
Before passing out, she told him could not see or breathe.
After the rescue, she spent six weeks recovering in hospital before returning home.
"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," said Professor Seymour, adding that scientists were keen to monitor her recovery.
"From our point of view it's really useful information that you very seldom, if ever, get your hands on."
The young girl's father, Geoff Shardlow, told the ABC that his daughter had suffered scarring to her legs and some short-term memory loss.
"We've noticed a small amount of short-term memory loss, like riding a pushbike to school and forgetting she's taken a pushbike," he said.
"The greatest fear was actual brain damage (but) her cognitive skills and memory tests were all fine."