Beautiful 'Freak' Snake May Ease Your Pain One Day

If scientists can harness the power of the long-glanded blue coral snake's venom
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2016 9:49 AM CDT
A Painkiller Made From the 'Killer of Killers'?
The beautiful but freaky long-glanded blue coral snake.   (Tom Charlton/Toxins)

Ibuprofen for your splitting headache, or venom from the "killer of killers"? Scientists say that poison from one of the rarest, most "beautiful" snakes in the world—a creature that devours king cobras for breakfast and boasts "freaky" long venom glands that run a quarter of its body length—could potentially provide effective pain relief for humans down the road, the BBC reports. A study by University of Queensland scientists in the journal Toxins points to the long-glanded blue coral snake (or "the snake with the scorpion's sting," as it's referred to) as the source of a fast-acting venom that immediately short-circuits its prey's nerves via a "massive shock to the system," study co-author Bryan Fry tells While this resembles the devastating blow dealt by such animals as the cone snail, it appears to be the first time a snake has been identified as having this instantly intense capability.

"Most snakes have a slow-acting venom that works like a powerful sedative—you get sleepy, slow, before you die," Fry says, per the BBC. Instead, the Calliophis bivirgatus' poison, while not instantly deadly, basically freezes its victim into a state of paralysis due to all of the nerves firing simultaneously. And this odd snake—on a "weird" scale of 1 to 10, Fry says it ranks an 11, per the Sydney Morning Herald—could soon brag of another first: Its venom affects nerve sodium channels in a way that could be beneficial to easing pain in humans. "From a drug development perspective, this is interesting, as this animal is evolutionarily speaking closer to us than a scorpion," Fry says. "Which means it might be more amenable to us" and possibly provide the material needed for the world's next "wonder drug." (Rattlesnakes are being used to study wildfires.)

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