The antimicrobial properties of spider silk

Wright, Simon (2011) The antimicrobial properties of spider silk. MRes thesis, University of Nottingham.



The natural world is the source of many therapeutic products. Spider silk was evaluated for its ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Additionally tests assessing its potential suitability for use in human medicine were carried out.

Silk produced by certain species of spiders has the ability to inhibit the growth of a gram-positive bacterium, B. subtilis. The ability of the silk to inhibit bacteria does not appear to be common to all spiders. Of all the species of spiders examined in this study, only the web silk of Tegenaria domestica and the egg silk of Pityohyphantes phrygianus was shown to significantly inhibit the grow of bacteria. With the T. domestica silk it appears that the antimicrobial effect is short lived, the growth of bacteria was only inhibited after 24 hours of growth, but not 48 hours. The P. phrygianus egg silk it did not appear to shown a reduction in its antimicrobial properties over time, inhibition of bacteria was observed equally at 24 hours and 72 hours. There was no evidence to suggest T. domestica silk was also able to inhibit the growth of fungi. While there was a trend of silk from the spiders of the genera Zilla and a linyphiid to inhibit the growth of bacteria, it was not significant. Two other genera of spider, Araneus, and Lasiodora did not appear to possess antimicrobial silk.

Treatments carried out on the silk appear to show the antimicrobial property is not lost after being subject to UV light, but that after being treated with Proteinase K or heated to 80°C the silk was no longer antimicrobial, indicating that the antimicrobial compounds may be proteins.

Tegenaria silk was examined for its effects on the growth of mammal cells. The spider silk did not appear to inhibit the growth of mammal cells suggesting there is potential application in medicine.

Atypus silk was examined for its suitability as a bandage. It was found to be highly water proof but experiments showed high levels of bacteria present which would make Atypus silk unsuitable as a bandage.

Item Type:Thesis (MRes)
Supervisors:Goodacre, Sara
Avery, Simon
Uncontrolled Keywords:spider silk, bacteria, B. subtilis, Tegenaria domestica, Pityohyphantes phrygianus
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Biosciences
ID Code:2033
Deposited By:Mr Simon Wright
Deposited On:30 Sep 2011 12:12
Last Modified:30 Sep 2011 12:12

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