Spider webs can cause allergy, says study

Botanists have discovered in spider webs of the city its diversity in pollen species and fungal spores which could have a bearing on clinical management of allergies.

Researchers from the Department of Botany at University College of Science in Saifabad, a constituent institution of Osmania University, took a close look at spider webs woven in the college.

Samples collected were examined for known allergens and pollen. Researchers found the presence of both fungal spores and pollen known to cause allergies. The study published in the journal Bioinfolet is part of an ongoing work in Osmania University.

‘Natural air traps’

“Our aim is to determine pollen and fungal spore species in the atmosphere. Spider webs are natural air traps and thus we decided to sample them,” said Prof. H. Ramakrishna, Head of Botany Department, Osmania University, one of the authors.

Samples of spider webs from the college yielded 39 pollen grains predominantly of the species Peltophorum pterocarpum, Ageratum conyzoides, Tridax procumbens, Prosopis julifera, Cocos nucifera and Pithecolobium dulce. The fungal spores species found were Alternaria, Ascospores, Torula and Curvularia.

Allergies are reactions of the immune system in a number of ways to triggers called allergens.

Pollen allergy is common but not all plant species are allergic to every individual. Prof. Ramakrishna and his team are now working on correlating clinical allergies with plant species present in the area.

“From our work in other areas, we have seen that pollen and fungal spore species vary. We are now beginning to work with physicians to see if the species of pollen we find in traps of spider webs cause allergies in that area,” he said.

Pollen allergies most commonly manifest as rhinitis or inflammation in the nose, with related symptoms including congestion, sneezing and increase in nasal secretions, often mimicking symptoms of common cold.

Researchers found that hygiene levels in an area had a bearing on the quantum of fungal spores. Areas with higher hygiene levels had a lower spore count, Prof. Ramakrishna said.

By mapping various species of pollen and fungal spores to geography, researchers hope they can provide clinically meaningful information that can help in better management of allergies. For now, they suggest it is essential to clear spider webs as they tend to collect allergens.

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Printable version | Jan 13, 2022 5:07:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/spider-webs-can-cause-allergy-says-study/article19151542.ece

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