Scientists have made some pretty neat discoveries with snake venom lately, the latest of which shows that the venom from a black mamba (one of nature’s deadlier snakes) actually makes for a better painkiller than morphine and without all of the nasty side-effects.
Reported in the journal Nature, tests using the African snake’s venom on mice revealed that, although deadly, the black mamba’s venom actually contains a great painkiller. The pain-killing proteins, called mambalgins, are seemingly unique to the black mamba, and scientists admit that they have no idea why the snake produces them, reports BBC.
Dr. Eric Lingueglia, of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology near Nice, told the BBC: “When it was tested in mice, the analgesia was as strong as morphine, but you don’t have most of the side-effects.”
Morphine is a highly effective painkiller, but it carries addictive risks and has been known to cause headaches, difficulty thinking, vomiting, and muscle twitching. Black mamba venom doesn’t cause any of that because it attacks pain in a unique way.
Though the venom has only been tested on mice, trials on human cells have shown similar results. “It is the very first stage, of course, and it is difficult to tell if it will be a painkiller in humans or not. A lot more work still needs to be done in animals.”
“It’s very exciting,” said Dr. Nicholas Casewell, an expert in snake venom at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, “It’s a really great example of drugs from venom, we’re talking about an entirely new class of analgesics.”
He also agreed with Dr. Lingueglia that the presence of the painkiller in black mamba venom is “really, really odd.”