Venom of Asia's rare snake could create new painkillers
Canberra, Oct 31 (IANS) Venom derived from one of the Southeast Asia’s rarest snakes can be turned into non-addictive painkiller drug that could work better than opium, revealed a research.
According to Associate Professor Bryan Fry of the University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences faculty, venom of the blue coral snake could improve any kind of pain treatment for humans such as cancer pain, a torn muscle or even a migraine.
“This was a 15-year project in the making that has finally come true after we managed to study two of such snakes in Cameron highlands, Malaysia,” Fry told Xinhua in a telephone interview on Monday.
“With its combination of electric blue stripes and neon red head and tail, the blue coral snake is arguably one of the world’s most striking species of snake,” he said.
“It also has the biggest venom glands in the world, extending over a quarter the length of its body,” he said.
At present, the long-glanded blue coral snake can only be found in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia but mass deforestation is threatening the species to extinction.
“This particular animal is very rare… and its habitat the forests are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantation,” Fry said.
“This is a great example why we need to conserve nature because you may have something so rare that could be potentially be so useful for human medicine but of course we can’t save lives if it (the snake) is extinct,” he said.
“It makes me wanna cry on how much (forest) is destroyed as there may be a plant there that can cure cancer that is completely chopped off before we can study it,” Fry added.
For this particular study, Fry said mass amounts of venom was milked out from two snakes in Malaysia without harming them in anyway in 2007 and then three years later in 2010.
Fry, who has been working with snakes for the last 20 years, said the discovery on the health benefits from the venom came by chance.
“We tested against everything and we found this by accident,” he said.
Moving forward, Fry said he and his team would be working on a artificial version of the toxin by improving on it before turning it into a medicinal drug meant for commercialisation.
He also added that they would be looking at other similar snakes in the same blood line to see if such animals produced similar benefits.
The findings of the research which was led by Fry involved scientists from Australia, China, Singapore and the US was been published in journal Toxins in October.