Submitted to: Veterinary Record
Publication Type: Research Notes
Publication Acceptance Date: February 28, 2003
Publication Date: May 31, 2003
Citation: Pizzi, R., Carta, L., George, S. 2003. Oral nematode infection of tarantulas. The Veterinary Record 152(22): 695.
Interpretive Summary: An emerging problem for large spider (tarantula) owners worldwide is an incurable infection by roundworms called nematodes, which accumulate in the spiders' mouths. In this joint project involving an ARS scientist and researchers in India and the United Kingdom, the ARS scientist identified the group of nematodes found inside the spiders. This note represents the first report in the scientific literature of the symptoms in spiders, the causative nematode, a procedure for isolating newly obtained spiders until they are known to be nematode-free, and instructions for disposal of an infested pet spider. A caution is given that, until more is known, the nematode might be dangerous to the owner or veterinarian. The results are significant because this is the first report of this kind of nematode killing spiders. This information will be used by anyone interested in studying nematodes or preventing nematode infection of spiders, including veterinarians, nematode researchers, and spider vendors and owners.
Oral nematode infection of Theraphosidae spiders, known as tarantulas, has been recently identified from several collections in the UK and mainland Europe. The disease has also been seen in captive and wild spiders from the Americas, Asia and Africa. Spider symptoms are described from anorexia until death, weeks to months later. The male and female nematodes may reach 3 mm in length, and are identified as belonging to family Panagrolaimidae (Phylum Nemata, Order Rhabditida). Although spread may occur within the same room, source and mode of transmission are unknown. Secondary bacterial infection and zoonosis are possibilities. Recommendations for temporary isolation after acquisition, and instructions for euthanasia with isoflurane are provided. Alcohol is recommended to preserve spiders for histology, while formalin is recommended to preserve nematodes for further study. This problem may adversely affect pet owners and captive breeding programs.