Dermatitis linearis is a toxic skin lesion caused by contact with certain beetles of the genus Paederus (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). Dermatitis linearis outbreaks have been described mainly in tropical and subtropical regions, but so far not in Central Europe, and are considered an emerging public health concern potentially associated with climate change.
Following diagnosis of dermatitis linearis in a cluster of six adults and one child with reported exposure to beetles with morphological characteristics of Paederus species at a recreational public open-air bath at Lake Neusiedl (Illmitz, Burgenland, Austria), we performed on-site inspection and installed light and pitfall traps. Collected beetle specimens of the genus Paederus were classified using morphological characteristics and DNA barcoding.
A total of 32 Paederus beetles were collected using an aspirator ( n = 2) and light traps ( n = 30). No individuals of the genus Paederus were captured with the pitfall traps. Morphological analyses identified them as members of the Paederus balcanicus species, which was confirmed by genetic specification of four arbitrarily chosen individuals. Dermatitis linearis lesions were treated with topical steroids and healed but partly leaving scars and hyperpigmentation, over the course of a few weeks in all affected persons.
We report for the first time (a) an outbreak of dermatitis linearis associated with exposure to autochthonous Paederus species in Austria, and (b) that contact to the species Paederus balcanicus may cause dermatitis linearis in humans. Adequate measures should be taken to prevent dermatitis linearis outbreaks in areas with resident Paederus occurrence.