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Aussie research says Asia's rare snake venom could create non-addictive painkillers

Xinhua, October 31, 2016 Adjust font size:

An Australian research has found that the venom derived from one Southeast Asia's rarest and most beautiful snake can be turned into non-addictive painkiller drug that could work better than opium.

University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences Faculty of Science Associate Professor Dr Bryan Fry said venom derived from Southeast Asia's long-glanded blue coral snake could improved any kind of pain treatment for humans such as cancer pain, a torn muscle or even a migraine.

"This was a 15 year project in the making that has finally come true after we managed to study two of such snakes in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia," Fry told Xinhua in a telephone interview on Monday.

"With its combination of electric blue stripes and neon red head and tail, the blue coral snake is arguably one of the world's most striking species of snake."

"It also has the biggest venom glands in the world, extending over a quarter the length of its body."

At present, the long-glanded blue coral snake can be found in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and no where else in the world but mass deforestation is threatening the species to extinction.

"This particular animals are very rare... and their habitat the forest are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantation," Fry said.

"This is a great example why we need to conserve nature because you may have something so rare that could be potentially be so useful for human medicine but of course we can't save lives if it (the snake) is extinct," he said.

"It makes me wanna cry on how much (forest) is destroyed as there may be a plant there that can cure cancer that is completely chopped off before we can study it,' Fry added.

For this particular study, Fry said mass amounts of venom was milked out from the two snakes in Malaysia without harming them in anyway in 2007 and three years later in 2010.

Fry who has been working with snakes for the last 20 years said the discovery on the health benefits from the venom came by chance.

"We tested against everything and we found this by accident," said Fry.

Moving forward, Fry said he and his team would be working on a artificial version of the toxin by improving on it before turning it into a medicinal drug meant for commercialisation.

Fry also added that they would be looking at other similar snakes in the same blood line to see if such animals produced similar benefits.

"Singapore has a very good population of snakes that are in the same blood line as the long-glanded blue coral snake.

"And we are working with Raffles Museum to capture the other species that could also have the same time of venom that helps cure human pain," he said.

"(The snake) It doesn't have a common name and is even rarer but we have a good idea where to find one," Fry said on his quest to find similar blood line snakes in Singapore.

The findings of the research which was led by Fry involved scientists from Australia, China, Singapore and the U.S. was been published in journal Toxins in October. Endit