Deadly Snake Venom Could Be Key To Pain Management In Humans

blue coral snake

Scientists seeking better techniques to manage pain relief are turning to the snake with the largest venom glands in the world for answers. The snake which is nick named the “killer of killers” is officially known as the long-glanded blue coral snake and often feeds on other snakes such as king cobras. The snake which can grow up 2 metres long and is native to South East Asia possesses venom that acts almost immediately causing its prey to spasm.

Venom which targets pain receptors

According to the latest research, the snake’s venom targets receptors which are critical to how pain functions in humans which means in theory it could be used to treat pain. Dr Bryan Fry one of the scientists carrying out the research said that most snakes tend to have venom which acts quite slowly and works in a similar manner to a powerful sedative. This means the victim of a snake bite usually gets quite sleepy before they die. Not so with the blue coral snake which instead works almost immediately because it hunts very dangerous animals that must be killed quickly before they have the chance to retaliate.

“The venom targets our sodium channels, which are central to our transmission of pain. We could potentially turn this into something that could help relieve pain, and which might work better on us.” Dr Fry said.

Turning into medicine?

The blue coral snake has venom glands that extend to as much as 25 per cent of its entire body length and according to Dr Fry, it is the first vertebrate in the world that has venom that works the way it does. The blue coral snake however is extremely rare because nearly 80 per cent of its habitat has been destroyed. Dr Fry says he has only ever spotted two of them in the wild. Much of their habitat has been cleared so that palm plantations in South East Asia can be established.

Looking for close relatives

Dr Fry and his team which includes researchers from several countries including Singapore, the US and China are studying the snake in Singapore. The team is looking to find out if the snake has any relatives that would possess any different properties. There is an often-used phrase which says the only good snake is a dead snake, but Dr Fry and his team are trying to do quite the opposite here.

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