The European spider Tegenaria agrestis (Walckenaer) (hobo spider) has been implicated as a spider of medical importance in the Pacific Northwest since its introduction in the late 1980s. Studies have indicated that the hobo spider causes necrotic tissue lesions through hemolytic venom or through the transfer of pathogenic bacteria introduced by its bite. Bacterial infections are often diagnosed as spider bites, in particular the pathogenic bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This study examines three aspects of the potential medical importance of hobo spiders in part of its introduced range, Washington State. First, the bacterial diversity of the spider was surveyed using a polymerase chain reaction-based assay to determine whether the spider carries any pathogenic bacteria. Second, an experiment was conducted to determine the ability of the spiders to transfer MRSA. Third, the venom was evaluated to assess the hemolytic activity. We found 10 genera of ubiquitous bacteria on the exterior surface of the spiders. In addition, none of the spiders exposed to MRSA transferred this pathogen. Finally, the hemolytic venom assay corroborates previous studies that found hobo spider venom was not deleterious to vertebrate red blood cells.
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Vol. 48 • No. 2