Part 1: What’s Your Poison?

Fact: Snake venom can be used as a painkiller.

A bite from a black mamba can kill a human being in 20 minutes, but surprisingly it can also get you high.

Newly discovered proteins called mambaglins, which are present in the venom of black mambas, are extremely potent painkillers – in fact, they have been found to be as effective as morphine in blocking pain receptors.

Patients on extended pain management treatment programmes often develop resistance to morphine, and so the discovery of new compounds in nature which could replace morphine offers new therapeutic options. Mambaglins are not the only useful drugs which might come from unlikely sources: the venom of cone snails, sea anemones, spiders and scorpions all have compounds in them which are being developed into medicines. Irony strikes for the good guys for once.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license

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