Tags: coral | snake | venom | pain | med

Coral Snake Venom, Though Super Toxic, May Be a Pain Med

Image: Coral Snake Venom, Though Super Toxic, May Be a Pain Med

A blue coral snake. (University of Queensland)

By    |   Tuesday, 01 Nov 2016 12:40 PM

Coral snake venom is unlike that of other venomous snakes, allowing the reptile to inflict a particularly nasty bite with a toxin that could have applications in medicine, according to a new study.

The long-glanded blue coral snake of southeast Asia preys on other venomous snakes with the world's largest venom glands delivering a unique venom that causes its victims to become instantly paralyzed, news.com.au reported.

Researchers at the University of Queensland seeking to better understand the unique toxin presented their findings in the journal Toxins.

“The specialty in my lab is to use evolution as our map, so we seek out the weirdest things we can find,” Dr. Bryan Fry from the University of Queensland who contributed to the study told news.com.au. “Because we have a very simple premise that if you want to find something new and wonderful for use in human medicine, you’re more likely to find it from a very unusual venom.”

He described the snake's bite as delivering a "lightning strike electrical spasm throughout the body."

Studying how the peptides in the snake's venom switch on its victim’s nerves could help researchers develop drugs to treat pain in humans, Fry told news.com.au.

“Even if it doesn’t itself become a drug, which it still may, it already immediately teaches us about how those channels work which means we have more data for drug design,” Fry told the news site.

In their report, the scientists described the toxin as an evolutionary development in the "chemical arms race" between the coral snake and its prey, which include deadly kraits and king cobras. To deliver its quick paralysis, the venom, named calliotoxin, targets sodium channels that pass electrochemical signals between nerve cells as well as muscle cells, The Washington Post reported.

"This is the first time that a snake venom has been reported to act on sodium channels, which is really quite surprising," Jennifer Deuis, a coauthor of the study, told the Post in an email.

Learning how to block certain sodium channels could help scientists develop a strong, non-narcotic painkiller.

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Coral snake venom is unlike that of other venomous snakes, allowing the reptile to inflict a particularly nasty bite with a toxin that could have applications in medicine, according to a new study.
coral, snake, venom, pain, med
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2016-40-01
Tuesday, 01 Nov 2016 12:40 PM
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