The deadly venom of the black mamba contains a painkiller as powerful as morphine, without most of the side effects, James Gallagher of BBC reports.French scientists found that the venom, which black mamba use to paralyze and kill small animals, also contains a potent painkiller.
The findings, published October 3 in the journal Nature, baffled the researchers.
Morphine is an effective painkiller but is also “addictive and causes headaches, difficulty thinking, vomiting and muscle twitching,” writes the BBC.
Black mamba venom, on the other hand, contains proteins called mambalgins that block pain through a completely different route and which seems to produce fewer side-effects.
Nicholas Casewell, a snake venom researcher from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK, called it “really, really odd” and suggested to the BBC that the pain-reducing effect may work in combination “with other toxins that prevent the prey from getting away” or may affect other animals differently.
Eric Lingueglia, a pain researcher at Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology in France, noted that the way pain works is very similar in mice and people. He said he hoped to eventually develop painkillers that could be used in the clinics because lab tests of mambalgins on human cells showed similar chemical effects.
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