Entries in Venom (3)


Bee Venom May Provide Protection Against HIV

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A toxin contained in bee venom may have the ability to prevent HIV infection when packaged properly.

Researchers at Washington University in Saint Louis, tested a specific delivery system of the toxin, called melittin, in lab dishes and found that "super-tiny blobs" of the bee venom component can attach to and destroy the HIV virus, according to Science News.

The nanoparticles of melittin selectively attached to the HIV virus and poked holes in its protein coat. The result, according to the study, was sharply diminished amounts of the virus.

The researchers also tested the toxin on cells from vaginal walls, due to the frequency of HIV entering the body through the vagina. The treatment being studied did not have any negative impact on the human cells because of protective structures attached to their outsides. According to Science News, the structures prevent the nanoparticles from attaching to healthy human cells.

The study, published in Antiviral Therapy, has a long way to go before a functional drug can be developed, but is exciting nonetheless. According to Science News, the nanoparticles must still be proven able to be produced in a uniform manner and would require adhesive properties to prevent the toxin from entering the bloodstream.

Nonetheless, Antony Gomes from the University of Calcutta in India told Science News, "There are very few reports available on venom-based treatment against viruses. This type of research has the potential to proceed further for product development.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Toxic Medicine: How Venom Can Heal

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Of the deadly animals in the wild, no pit viper or scorpion quite matches the hidden danger of the 3-inch long Conus magus, or "magical cone," snail.

On the ocean floor, the snail tends to look like a seafaring paperweight -- at least until dinner swims by.

Then, the formerly unassuming snail uses its snakelike tongue, topped with a tiny harpoon, to inject its prey with immobilizing venom, turning a passing fish into a one-bite meal.

The venom is made up of approximately 200 different kinds of toxins and can kill a grown man as easily as it kills a guppy.  Any human unlucky enough to be injected by the venom will be effectively paralyzed by the toxin-filled substance, which can lead to organ failure when the diaphragm muscles are no longer able to contract and pull oxygen into the lungs.

Jon-Paul Bingham, an assistant professor in the department of molecular biosciences and biological engineering at the University of Hawaii, has made a career of studying various species of the cone snail and characterizes them as "pretty horrific, pretty nasty."

But the venom, Bingham said, causes one surprising reaction in its victims: They feel no pain.

This venom's ability to cut off pain receptors has led to a second life as a powerful pain reliever called Prialt.  The drug is 1,000 times more potent than morphine and is nonaddictive.

Prialt is just one example of the many ways venom components can be used therapeutically. Currently, six venom-derived medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but new technologies and research have shown how proteins and toxins within venom can provide key blueprints for treating a wider variety of ailments, including autoimmune disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Venom-based cures have been around since at least the seventh century B.C., when snake venom was used to treat arthritis and gastrointestinal problems.  Modern venom-derived medications started in the 1970s, when pit viper venom was used to create blood pressure medication, with subsequent medications focusing mostly on the cardiovascular system.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004, Prialt is one of six drugs derived from venom proteins that were currently approved for use in the United States.

Over millions of years, animal venom has evolved to reach specific pathways quickly, often affecting the cardiovascular or nervous systems in an animal's prey.  By harnessing these same proteins within the venom, scientists are working to target these pathways for therapeutic reasons.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Morphine-Like Painkiller, Minus the Complications, Found in Black Mamba Venom

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- The deadly venom of one of the most feared snakes in Africa apparently contains a painkiller that could rival morphine, but without the side effects, according to French scientists.

The black mamba, found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and reportedly the second-largest snake on the continent, unleashes a neurotoxic poison that attacks its victim’s nerves and shuts down major organs.

Without an antidote, a human being likely would be dead in six hours.

In a study reported in the journal Nature, researchers at the National Center for Scientific Research said they’d found mambalgins -- pain-killing proteins -- in the snake’s venom.

They’d examined 50 different species of snakes before the black mamba discovery, which has been tested on mice.

“The analgesia was as strong as morphine,” Dr. Eric Linguieglia of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology told the BBC, “but you don’t have most of the side effects.”

Though highly effective in eradicating pain, morphine is known to cause headaches, vomiting and other symptoms. It is also addictive.

In the mice, the black mamba’s proteins reportedly targeted pain differently than morphine, whose path through the brain can cause nausea.

Dr. Michael Roizen, an internist and anesthesiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told ABC News that if the mambalgins were able to relieve patients of severe pain without the side effects associated with other therapies like morphine, “it would be a major advancement.”

“It’s a new avenue, a new approach to therapies,” he said Thursday. “You’d love it to work.”

He cautioned, as the study’s authors did, that the research was still in its very early stages.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio