A team of French scientists has found that black mamba venom, which is considered to be among nature’s most deadly toxins, is a highly effective painkiller that won’t cause the troublesome side effects of opiates.
The journal Nature published research today that outlines how proteins in the toxic venom called mambalgins tested as effectively as morphine in lab mice. It also lacks properties that would cause addiction, cognitive dulling, headaches, and other a number of other undesirable conditions.
“Mambalgins are not toxic in mice but show a potent analgesic effect upon central and peripheral injection that can be as strong as morphine. This effect is, however, resistant to naloxone, and mambalgins cause much less tolerance than morphine and no respiratory distress,” the report states.
Black mamba venom isn’t the only toxin that’s being developed for managing pain. Toxins from snakes, spiders, and even scorpions are being evaluated as potential cure alls for our aches and pains. Bee stings are already being used to treat arthritis. Here are some examples:
Johnson & Johnson and Australia’s University of Queensland are partnering on a drug that uses peptides found in spider venom to treat chronic pain; Canadian’s Wex Phamanceuticals has built its company around puffer fish poison; and cobra venom has been found to ease arthritis pain. Israeli researchers are evaluating scorpions as a potential source for non opiate painkillers.
Having so many alternatives could be a prescription against the substance abuse and crime that's associated with today's mainline drugs. Painkiller abuse is rapidly becoming an epidemic across the United States, and now accounts for more annual deaths than cocaine and heroin overdoses.
Having safer, effective alternative available for people who really need it is desirable - even if the new drugs are pricier. It is worth asking whether the added cost of a brand name drug vs. generic opiates would surpass the harm that prescription drug addiction is inflicting upon people and society.
(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons)