ABERDEEN, Scotland —Scorpion venom may hold the key to stopping the coronavirus pandemic, a new study reveals. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen say the potentially fatal toxins the animals produce can help scientists create a “fascinating cocktail” which destroys germs — such as COVID-19’s grow list of new variants.
Animal venom has been an ingredient in traditional medicines across the world. These potent neurotoxins — which can kill other animals and even humans — also have antibacterial and antiviral properties too.
Researchers collected scorpions from the Egyptian desert and took samples of their venom before releasing them back into their habitat. The team found that the venom contains active peptides, many of which give the animal its deadly sting. However, others hold powerful antiviral qualities which may protect a scorpion’s venomous gland from infection.
It is these peptides scientists believe could serve as a good starting point to design novel anti-coronavirus drugs. Unfortunately, this won’t be an easy process. Study authors say scorpion venom is a very complex mixture and contains hundreds of toxins. It will take many experiments to purify and identify the different mixtures.
The team then plans to synthesize venom peptides in larger doses, tailoring them to produce drug-like benefits to patients.
“The study of scorpion venoms as a source of novel drugs is an exciting and productive area worthy of further investigation,” says Dr. Wael Houssen in a university release.
“We have already seen that these venoms contain extremely potent bioactive peptides, and we believe that there are many more await discovery.”
“Several scorpion species including the most toxic in the world are widespread in Egypt,” adds Professor Mohamed Abdel-Rahman from the University of Suez Canal.
“Their venoms have not yet been fully studied and may represent an unorthodox source of new medicines.”
South West News Service writer Hamish Morrison contributed to this report.