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Researchers at the University of Sydney say they discovered a potential antidote to the bite of the world’s most poisonous sea creature: the Australian jellyfish also known as cubomedusa.
The jellyfish has about 60 tentacles that can grow up to 3 meters. They live mainly in coastal waters of northern and western Australia and the Philippines, according to a university press release.
Each tentacle has millions of microscopic hooks filled with venom, and the jellyfish has enough venom to kill more than 60 humans, the university said. Associate Professor Greg Neely, one of the study’s authors, said no other animal carries that much poison.
The poison can cause tissue necrosis, extreme pain, cardiac arrest and death within a few minutes of severe exposure. If it does not kill, the poison can cause unbearable pain.
The research team used the gene editing technique known as CRISPR to identify how the poison kills human cells.
“We study the biggest poison, the most poisonous and terrifying,” Neely said in a press release. “Our drug works with the big beast. We still do not know if it works with other jellyfish, but we know it works with the most deadly. “
The researchers found that the poison does most of the damage to the skin when it interacts with cholesterol, and that existing drugs to eliminate cholesterol can also act as antidotes to jellyfish venom if given within 15 days. minutes after the bite.
The researchers used specific types of cyclodextrins, a family of drugs that absorb cholesterol, to block the poison, Neely said.
“It turns out that by blocking the ability of the poison to kill the cells, we can also block some of the pain,” Neely, an associate professor at the University of Sydney who studies illness and pain, told CNN.
The antidote was tested for the first time in human cells outside the body and in live mice, according to the university. The researchers hope to develop a topical application for humans.
However, it is not clear if the antidote will be effective for severe bites.
“We still do not know if it will stop a heart attack. That will require more research and we are requesting funding to continue this work, “said Neely.
In an article he wrote for The Conversation, Neely said researchers are also looking to develop a treatment for cardiac injection.
Neely told CNN that he is particularly excited about the potential to use CRISPR to study other types of poison.
“This is the first time that it is used (CRISPR) as a poison,” he said. “There is an unlimited amount of great work that we could do.”
It is not clear exactly how often people die from jellyfish stings. Experts advise victims to pour vinegar into the wound for at least 30 seconds.
The Australian jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) is considered the most poisonous marine animal in the world, according to the National Oceanic Service of the United States .
Jellyfish not only float, they can also actively swim, reaching a speed of 7.5 kilometers per hour when they hunt, the university said. They feed in shallow water, mainly small fish and prawns.