Scientist have discovered that the snake which has the world’s largest venom glands could provide a solution to pain relief. The long-glanded blue coral snake whose nick-name is the “killer of killers” is known to feed on the likes of the king cobra. The snake is 2 metres long or 6 feet 6 inches and is found in South-East Asia. Its venom acts almost immediately causing its prey to spasm. According to the latest research which was recently published in the scientific journal Toxin the toxin targets receptors which are critical to pain in human beings which means the venom could potentially act as a pain killer.
“Most snakes have a slow-acting venom that works like a powerful sedative. You get sleepy, slow, before you die, this snake’s venom, however, works almost immediately because it usually preys on very dangerous animals that need to be quickly killed before they can retaliate. It’s the killer of killers.” said researcher Dr Bryan Fry from the University of Queensland.
Turning into medicine?
There have been a number of invertebrates whose venom has been studied for medicinal purposes. However, the snake is a vertebrate which means it is evolutionary closer to humans and therefore a medicine developed using venom may well turn out to be more effective. Dr Fry adds that the venom targets the sodium channels of its prey which is central to the transmission of pain in humans. This means it could potentially be converted into a something that could help treat pain. According to Dr Fry the blue coral snake is the first vertebrate in the world which has venom acting in this way that we know about.
Whilst all that sounds really great, the snake is extremely rare with 80 per cent of them having been destroyed. Dr Fry says he has only ever seen two of them in the wild. This is because much of their habitat has been cleared to make was for palm plantations in South East Asia. We have no idea what other secrets those forests may have held that could well have saved lives. Dr Fry and his team are looking to study relatives of the blue coral snake in Singapore.
“We’re trying to see if there are any relatives of the long-glanded blue coral snake that would possess any different properties. Some people say the only good snake is a dead snake but we’re trying to do the opposite here.”