Centipede venom could be more effective pain killer than morphine


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The Independent Online

When morphine doesn't do the trick, you could turn to centipede venom instead, according to a new study.

The venom produced by the Chinese red-headed centipede, which paralyzes prey and prevents it from feeling pain, could be used in a compound that would trump morphine as a pain killer in cases of extreme distress, claim scientists at the University of Utah.

Experiments on mice showed that the venom was at least as effective, if not more so, at reducing pain as morphine.

The mice suffered no side-effects and researchers also hope that humans using a drug compound that included the venom would not develop an addiction, as different receptors are blocked to morphine.

So how would you feel about trying some yourself?

Also currently pursuing positive uses for venom is Steve Ludwin, 46, profiled by VICE, who regularly administers himself a dose of snake poison treating it like a health-fix come pick-me-up.

Experiments go beyond the amateurish, however:

* A biophysicist at The University of Buffalo believes venom from the Chilean Rose Tarantula could be used to treat muscular dystrophy, as a peptide it contains can reduce the amount of stress felt by muscles.

* Anyone misfortunate enough to get stung by a Brazilian yellow scorpion can expect to suffer extreme swelling of the pancreas in pretty short order, but an East Carolina research team hopes to understand pancreatitis better by studying the compound up close.

* Venom from the green mamba could help those with high blood pressure, as well as kidney problems, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, who have begun clinical trials on a fused peptide.

There's a long read on the National Geographic website that goes into more depth.

But in the meantime, if you do suffer a bite, just lie back and think of science...