False widows, the fat-bottomed black, brown and red spiders which can be found across window sills in the UK can transfer bacteria to humans which is resistant to antibiotics, new research has found. Australian Black Widows or Funnel Web spiders were known to be potentially deadly, but the after-effects of a bite from a false widow were considered to be much less harmful.
However, new research from the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI) has found they can deliver bacteria which cannot be treated with traditional antibiotics.
The false widow only arrived in the UK and Ireland around a decade ago, but researchers have been questioning the long-term effects of a bite from one of the creepy crawlies.
The research from NUI found that the common house-spider can deliver a bite which can deliver bacteria harmful to humans, according to the research published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Dr Aoife Boyd, Director of the Pathogenic Mechanisms Group at NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, and senior author of the study, said: “The diversity of microbes never ceases to amaze me.
“The power to survive and thrive in every environment is shown here by the presence of antimicrobial resistance bacteria even in spider venom.
“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.”
Dr John Dunbar, Zoologist at the Ryan Institute’s Venom System Lab in NUI Galway, said: “About 10 species of spiders common in North-western Europe have fangs strong enough to pierce human skin and deliver venom, but only one of them, the recent invasive noble false widow spider, is considered of medical importance.
“Most of the time, a spider bite results in some redness and pain.
“In some cases, however, victims seem to develop long lasting infections for which strong antibiotic treatment – and sometimes a hospital stay – are necessary.
“It is this increasing range expansion and massive rise in dense populations of false widow spiders around urbanised areas across Ireland and Britain that has seen a rise in bites with some severe envenomation symptoms but also infections, which in some cases proved even difficult to treat with antibiotics.
Neyaz Kahn, co-lead author of the study and PhD student at the Pathogenic Mechanisms Group in NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, said: “Our study demonstrates that spiders are not just venomous but are also carriers of dangerous bacteria capable of producing severe infections.
“The biggest threat is that some of these bacteria are multi-drug resistant, making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine.
“This is something that health care professionals should consider from now on.”
The antibiotic-resistant superbugs have become a massive cause for concern for health professionals as their numbers continue to rise.
Humans, especially in the West, have become so reliant on antibiotics to help cure illnesses that many of the bacteria that they are trying to fight have become resistant to the drugs through evolution.
Such is the worry around antibiotic superbugs that experts believe that they will claim 10 million lives by 2050, with 700,000 people dying a year after catching the infections, according to a report last year from the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology Journal.