People are being warned that spider bites from noble false widow spiders could be so severe that they could lead to hospitalization.
The spider species, found in Britain more than 140 years ago, may be more dangerous than originally thought, according to a new study.
The results, published in the international medical journal Clinical Toxicology, confirm that some bite victims can have symptoms very similar to those of real black widow spiders and require hospital treatment in the most extreme cases.
False widow spiders are becoming more and more common
The noble false widow is originally from Madeira and the Canary Islands and in appearance resembles the deadly black widow, although it is significantly less dangerous.
However, a team of scientists from the University of Ireland in Galway have found that the species may be more harmful than originally thought.
Scientists say the false widow now has the potential to become one of the most invasive spider species in the world.
The species was first discovered in Britain over 140 years ago, but its numbers have suddenly increased in recent decades, dramatically expanding its range and density.
It is not clear why the number is increasing, but scientists have suggested that a next-generation mutation within the species may have made the noble false widow more adaptable to new environments.
Human movements have been a major contributor to the spread throughout Europe, North Africa, West Asia, and parts of North and South America, with spiders able to move through containers and crates. shipping to worldwide.
In parts of Britain and Ireland, the noble false widow has become one of the most common spider species found in and around urban habitats.
Dr Michel Dugon, head of the Venom Systems Laboratory at NUI Galway and lead author of the study, said: “In addition to their medically important venom, Noble False Widows are extremely adaptable and competitive in nature. .
“Two decades ago this species was almost unknown in Ireland, the UK or mainland Europe. We still have a lot to learn about its genetics, origin, behavior and development.
“One thing is certain though: this species is here to stay, and we have to learn to live with it. ”
With the increasing number of false widows around homes, bites are becoming more frequent and scientists are beginning to realize the full medical importance of these spiders.
The study found that almost all of the bites occurred in and around the home, with 88% occurring when the victim was sleeping in their bed or when the spider was trapped in clothing.
Symptoms of envenomation (the process by which venom is injected) of a false widow bite can be both localized and systemic, and range from mild to debilitating pain and mild to severe swelling.
Some bite victims have experienced tremors, reduced or high blood pressure, nausea, and reduced mobility.
In rare cases, victims also developed minor injuries at the bite site or had to be treated for serious bacterial infections.
The NUI Galway research team has established a DNA database to allow clinicians handling cases to confirm the identity of the species using genetic analysis. This is especially important when the spider has been run over so that an accurate identification of the species can be made.
Dr John Dunbar, postdoctoral researcher at NUI Galway’s Venom Systems Laboratory and lead author of the study, said: “We only compiled cases of envenomation where we had a clear identification of the responsible spider. of 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 being bitten.
“Our latest study definitely confirms that Nobles False Widows can cause serious poisoning. This species is increasing its range and population density, which will undoubtedly lead to an increase in bites.
“While most cases will have a mild outcome, we must continue to monitor Noble False Widow bites closely to understand the potential range of symptoms and treat severe cases when they arise. ”
The team encourages members of the public to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org if they think they’ve been bitten.
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This notice was published: 2021-06-03 06:00:00