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Wilderness Environ Med. 2003 Winter;14(4):249-54.

Piranha attacks on humans in southeast Brazil: epidemiology, natural history, and clinical treatment, with description of a bite outbreak.

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Department of Dermatology, Faculdade de Medicina de Botucatu, Universidade Estadual Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil.


There are many tales describing ferocious schools of piranha attacking humans, but there are few scientific data supporting such behavior. The very few documented instances of humans attacked and eaten by piranha schools include 3 that occurred after death by other causes (eg, heart failure and drowning). These predaceous fishes, however, do occasionally injure bathers and swimmers in lakes and rivers. The characteristic profile of most injuries is a single bite per victim, generally related to the fish defending its brood. This paper describes an outbreak of piranha bites in a dammed river portion in southeast Brazil. The outbreak was caused by the speckled piranha, Serrasalmus spilopleura, a widespread species which benefits from the growing tendency of damming rivers all over Brazil. This article focuses on the epidemiological and clinical aspects of the injuries, as well as on piranha biology, to gain a better understanding of the natural history of bite outbreaks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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