Australian researchers discover medical use of blue coral snake’s venom

By @vitthernandez on
Blue Coral Snake
The blue coral snake preys on other fast-moving, venomous snakes. University of Queensland/Tom Charlton

Researchers are discovering more uses for animal venom such as that of the carnivorous sea snail, snake and bee. The latest venom studied is that of the blue coral snake of Southeast Asia which Australian scientists can cause paralysis.

Its venom contains an unusual number of peptides which switch on all of the victim’s nerve at once, causing instant paralysis. By working on a particular type of sodium channel, the venom could be tapped for the treatment of pain in humans, News.com.au reports.

The University of Queensland study, published in the November issue of the journal Toxin, could lead to the discovery of the world’s next wonder drug, says Dr Bryan Fry, who conceived and designed the experiments with Iwan Hendrikx and Irina Vetter.

The blue coral snake preys on other fast-moving, venomous snakes. Its venom glands, one of the world’s biggest, is up to one-fourth of its body length which usually grows up to two metres long with venom gland of up to 60 centimetres.

He explains, “The speciality in my lab is to use evolution as our map, so we seek out the weirdest things we can find … 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.”

The snake’s venom is as powerful as the scorpion’s sting which causes it prey to completely spams. Fry says the venom teaches scientists how the sodium channels work, providing them more data for designing drugs.

One challenge facing researchers is the species if fast becoming rarer because of the fast depletion of its habitat, monsoonal forest in Southeast Asia, “at an absolutely shocking rate.”

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