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Toxins Plus Bacteria in Venom

Toxins aren't the only danger within the venom of spiders and snakes, as there's also bacteria, the Washington Post says.

Researchers from the Northumbria University in the UK, Venomtech, a company focused on turning venom into drugs and other tools, and elsewhere examined the venom and envenomation organ microbiomes of five snake species and two spider species. As they report in Microbiology Spectrum, the researchers found that venom is not, as expected, sterile.

"We found that all venomous snakes and spiders that we tested had bacterial DNA in their venom," senior author Sterghios Moschos from Northumbria University says in a statement. Because of venom's toxicity and antimicrobial features, it was thought to be mostly sterile.

But, Moschos and colleagues found, for instance, two novel venom-resistant Enterococcus faecalis strains within black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis) venom. These E. faecalis strains, they further report, had 45 additional genes, many of which work to strengthen the bacterial cell membrane.

These findings suggested to the researchers that bacteria have evolved to survive within venom and that bacteria from the venom itself could trigger wound infections.