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article imageIncrease in black widow population presents bacterial risk

By Tim Sandle     Dec 2, 2020 in Science
Scientists have identified that common house spiders can transmit bacteria that can infect people. In addition, with Noble False Widow spiders carrying strains of bacteria resistant common antibiotic treatments.
Australian Black Widows spiders are more commonly associated with their deadly venom. Other spider bites that cause reactions are usually not due to any toxin introduced by the spider bite, but rather a secondary bacterial infection. These infections can either arise from the person who has been bitten scratching their skin or not cleaning the wound, or from the spider itself.
Spider bacterial transmission, via the fangs, is a concern where the reaction is severe and the issue has become complicated by the discovery that more spiders are carrying bacteria that are resistant to one or more antibiotics.
Some researchers had previously speculated whether the venom from spiders has inherent antimicrobial properties, thereby able to neutralize any bacteria present. The new research, from the National University of Ireland (Galway), shows this not to be the case, at least with the studied model: the Noble False Widow (Steatoda nobilis).
According to the lead researcher, Dr Aoife Boyd: "Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an urgent and growing problem worldwide. A One Health approach interconnecting human, animal and environmental health is the only way to tackle the problem."
There has been a considerable increase of populations of false widow spiders throughout Ireland and Britain. This, coupled with the new findings, shows that spider bites are a potential risk for urban populations (most bites are painful, result in symptoms similar to a bee or wasp sting). The bite effect is the result of alpha latrotoxins, with the bite from the female spider being more painful than the male.
Despite the concern, knowing this increase and the concern with the rise in antimicrobial resistant bacteria will open up new areas for medical research.
The research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports. The research study is titled "Synanthropic spiders, including the global invasive noble false widow Steatoda nobilis, are reservoirs for medically important and antibiotic resistant bacteria."
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