Bothrops jararacussu is a very venomous viper found in Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. The black-and-yellow-scaled snake may grow to 7.2ft (2.2m) in length and possesses a lethal venom capable of killing up to 16 people simultaneously.
When the predator strikes, the unfortunate victim suffers shock, internal bleeding, necrosis, and liver failure, among other agonizing symptoms.
It may come as a surprise, then, to find that scientists have investigated using this strong venom to combat COVID-19.
According to new research published in the journal Molecules, a specific ingredient discovered in the venom can interact with a coronavirus enzyme.
And the results thus far are encouraging: the venom ingredient inhibited the virus’s replication by up to 75 percent.
The researchers are certain that their discovery will result in the creation of new vaccine to combat Covid.
Rafael Guido, a professor at the University of Sao Paolo, said: “We were able to show this component of snake venom was able to inhibit a very important protein from the virus.”
The team isolated fragments of a peptide – a short chain of amino acids – capable of connecting the PLPro enzyme found in the virus that causes COVID-19 – SARS-CoV-2.
The PLPro enzyme is required for the virus to replicate without causing damage to its host cells.
Giuseppe Puorto, a reptile expert at Sao Paolo, said: “We’re wary about people going out to hunt the jararacussu around Brazil, thinking they’re going to save the world… That’s not it!
“It’s not the venom itself that will cure the coronavirus.”
The good news is that scientists can now synthesize the peptides in the laboratory, removing the need to hunt for jararacussu.
The researchers have only conducted experiments on monkey cells thus far, but the results are encouraging.
According to Reuters, they will now investigate the efficacy of various doses of the chemical.
Additionally, the researchers will test if the molecule is capable of preventing the coronavirus from entering the cell in the first place.
And this would not be the first time scientists have synthesized drugs using snake venom.
According to experts, ACE inhibitors used in many blood pressure and heart failure drugs are derived from an active ingredient found in snake venom.
Discovered in 1981, the ingredient known as captopril was extracted from the venom of Brazil’s Bothrops jararaca viper.
Nobel Prize winner John Vane found that peptides found in snake venom could block angiotensin activity.
Angiotensin is a hormone that causes the narrowing of blood vessels and causes an increase in blood pressure.
The fight against coronavirus has so far produced a number of vaccines across the globe, with research efforts in the US, UK, China and Russia yielding positive results.
Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP via Getty Images