Venom derived from the long-glanded blue coral snake - one of Southeast Asia’s rarest and deadliest snakes - may lead to painkillers that manage pain without the side effect of addiction, scientists have claimed.
The snake with electric blue stripes and neon-red head and tail grows up to two metres long. Its venom glands extend to 60 centimetres, about a quarter of its body length.
Described as “the killer of killers” due to its taste for young king cobras, this snake is unique among snakes because, like scorpions, its venom causes its prey to spasm.
“This venom hits a particular type of sodium channel that is important for the treatment of pain in humans,” said Bryan Fry, from the University of Queensland in Australia.
Researchers identified six unusual peptides in the venom of the blue coral snake that can switch on all of its prey’s nerves at once. This immediately immobilises its victim.
The found that the venom used receptors which were critical to pain in humans. Learning how these work may enable improved pain treatment and management, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ reported.
“It’s a great example of why studying the really weird animals is a great path for biodiscovery and you can’t get any weirder than this snake with the longest venom glands in the world,” Fry said.
The findings were published in the journal Toxins.