No ‘killer spiders’ in Assam, say experts

An Assam-WIDE scare following a series of reports about some "killer spiders" suddenly becoming hostile to humans and even causing death was totally unfounded, according to experts who visited a few such areas.

While two persons had reportedly died of spider bite in Sadiya in Tinsukia district, a team of experts from the life science department of Dibrugarh University that visited the area found no such cases.

"We visited different villages including families of two persons who reportedly died due to spider bites. But none could assert that he or she had actually seen a person being bitten by a spider. Moreover, from the description of the nature of wounds the two deceased had, it seemed more to be due to snake-bites," said Dr L R Saikia, who led the team.

In the case of one Rituraj Gogoi, who had also apparently died due to a spider-bite, Dr Saikia said he had actually reported being bitten by something when he had put his hand in a termite mound.

The team also met at least eight persons who had reported been bitten by spiders.

"If the spider is to be venomous enough to cause death to humans, then these eight persons should have already died. But they are all hale and hearty," said Phalgun Chetia, a researcher on spiders at Gauhati University who was part of the team to Sadiya.

Both Dr Saikia and Chetia said there was no evidence of any spider species in Assam and the Northeast which could cause human deaths. "There is no evidence of any such spider in the region whose bite could lead to human death," Dr Saikia said.

"What is most disturbing is that while a strong rumour is doing the rounds across Assam, panic-stricken people have started killing spiders in large numbers out of fear. This itself is dangerous because spiders too have a major role to play in the bio-diversity," said Dr Rajib Rudra Tariang, another researcher who was part of the study team to Sadiya.

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