NUI Galway study confirms the noble false widow spider has public health implications

Photo credit: Dr. John Dunbar, Venom Systems Lab at NUI Galway.

NUI Galway study confirms the noble false widow spider has public health implications

The research team has set up a DNA database that allows clinicians working on cases to confirm species identity using genetic analysis

The epidemiology of the bites shows that almost all bites occurred in and around the house, and 88% of the bites occurred when the victim was either sleeping in bed or when the spider was trapped in clothes

In parts of Ireland and the UK, the false widow spider has become one of the most common types of spiders found in and around urban habitats

A team of scientists from NUI Galway has released a new study showing Noble False Widow spiders can shed a bite that requires hospitalization.

The threat posed by the Noble False Widow spider has been debated among spider and health specialists for many years. This new study was published in the international medical journal Clinical toxicology confirms that some bite victims experience symptoms very similar to true black widow spiders and that some severe cases require hospitalization.

Native to Madeira and the Canary Islands, the noble false widow spider Steatoda nobilis now has the potential to become one of the most invasive species of spider in the world. It was first documented in the UK over 140 years ago, but over the past few decades the number of species has suddenly increased, significantly expanding their range and density.

The reasons for this sudden expansion are not clear. Scientists have ruled out climate change as a likely cause, but suggested that a new genetic mutation within the species may have made Noble False Widows more adaptable to new environments. Additionally, the species has benefited from an increasingly globalized economy that hitchhikes in containers and crates around the world. Human movement has largely contributed to the spread of this species across Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, and parts of North and South America.

In parts of Ireland and the UK, it has become one of the most common species of spider to be found in and around urban habitats. With the increase in false widow spiders in private households, the number of bites is increasing, and scientists are now beginning to realize the full medical implications of these spiders.

Symptoms of poisoning can be both local and systemic, ranging from mild to debilitating pain and mild to severe swelling. Some victims have experienced tremors, decreased or increased blood pressure, nausea, and decreased mobility. In rare cases, victims have developed minor wounds at the site of the bite or had to be treated for severe bacterial infections.

The NUI Galway research team has set up a DNA database that enables clinicians working on cases to confirm the identity of the species using genetic analysis. This is especially important if the spider has been crushed so that an accurate identification of the spider can be made. The study also provides an epidemiology of bites, which shows that almost all of the bites occurred in and around the house, and 88% of the bites occurred when the victim was either sleeping in bed or when the spider was trapped in clothes. The team encourages the public to email them at [email protected] when they think they have been bitten.

Dr. Michel Dugon, director of the Venom Systems Lab at NUI Galway and lead author of the study, said, “In addition to their medically significant venom, Noble False Widows are extremely adaptable and competitive in the wild. Two decades ago this species was almost unknown in Ireland, Great Britain or continental Europe. We still have a lot to learn about genetics, origins, behavior and development. One thing is certain, however: this species is here to stay and we must learn to live with it. ”

Dr. John Dunbar, postdoctoral fellow at the Venom Systems Lab at NUI Galway and lead author of the study, said: “Speculations about the potential severity of the Noble False Widow bites have been debated for many years. We have only compiled cases of poisoning in which we had a clear identification of the spider responsible for the bite. We had to rely on DNA extraction and genetic profiling to confirm some cases. We encourage people to take a photo of the spider immediately after the bite. Our latest study undoubtedly confirms that noble false widows can cause serious discomfort (the process by which poison is injected).

“This species increases its range and population density, which will undoubtedly lead to an increase in bites (we have had more confirmed bite cases since we submitted our study in March). While most cases will have a mild outcome, we must continue to closely monitor Noble False Widow bites to understand the potential range of symptoms and treat severe cases as they arise. ”

Aiste Vitkauskaite, MSc student toxicology at NUI Galway and co-director of the study, said: “About ten species of Irish spiders have fangs large enough to bite through human skin, but for the past five years we have never heard of anyone being bitten by any of the native species. During the same period of time, we recorded dozens of confirmed or probable false widow bites. These spiders are becoming more common, and so are their bites. ”

Professor Derek O’Keeffe, Professor of Medical Technology at NUI Galway and Consultant Physician at Galway University Hospital, said, “This innovative research, led by Dr. Dugon and his team clearly show that Noble False Widow spider bites can result in significant patient morbidity in hospital care. This is important because so far we have had only sporadic evidence of potential harm to victims, and so this new evidence will allow clinical guidelines and protocols to be updated. These results show the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists and clinicians in improving patient care. “

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The complete study in Clinical toxicology is available at https: //.doi.Organization/10.1080 /15563650.2021.1928165.

https: //.www.nuigalway.dh /about us/News and Events /News archive /2021 /can /New study confirms that noble, false widow spider bites can lead to hospital stays.html

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