Another cause of “Irukandji stingings”

Mark Little and Jamie Seymour
Med J Aust 2003; 179 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2003.tb05738.x
Published online: 1 December 2003

To the Editor: In 1964 the Journal published an article by Barnes which solved the mystery of a distressing illness that was affecting many Queensland beachgoers — Irukandji syndrome.1 In a remarkable piece of detective work, Barnes had captured a small (25 mm bell) jellyfish and demonstrated, by allowing it to sting himself, his 9-year-old son and the on-duty lifeguard, that this jellyfish caused Irukandji syndrome. All required inpatient care. This jellyfish was named Carukia barnesi in his honour, and has been known as the “Irukandji jellyfish”. Many now believe that more than one jellyfish is responsible for Irukandji syndrome. Significantly, in the 40 years since Barnes’ discovery, no other jellyfish causing Irukandji syndrome has been identified.

  • 1 Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Nedlands, WA.
  • 2 Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD.


  • 1. Barnes JH. Cause and effect in Irukandji stingings. Med J Aust 1964; 1: 897-904.
  • 2. Little M, Mulcahy RF, Wenck DJ. Life threatening cardiac failure in a healthy young female with Irukandji syndrome. Anaesth Intensive Care 2001; 29: 178-180.


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