The venom of deadly animals mightn’t seem like a great place to look for life-saving medicines, but scientists are continually sifting through these toxins to discover compounds with huge potential. Now researchers at Stanford studying scorpion venom have identified a pair of compounds that were shown to kill off both staph and tuberculosis bacteria. And better yet, they were able to create synthetic versions in the lab.
Scorpion venom has proven a rich source of medical discovery, despite its obvious deterrents. Scientists have tapped into the toxic substance for the development of immunosuppressants, malaria medication and cancer research. Just last month, researchers discovered how an amino acid in scorpion venom could be used to help clinicians more easily detect lethal brain tumors.
The latest breakthrough comes courtesy of the scorpion Diplocentrus melici, which is native to eastern Mexico and was being studied by researchers of molecular medicine at the National University of Mexico. As you can probably imagine, extracting scorpion venom isn’t easy. In fact, in 2017 a group of researchers in Morocco even developed a scorpion-milking machine to make things safe for humans and the animal itself.
Using the more traditional method of stimulating the animal’s tail with mild electrical pulses, the team in Mexico was able to extract small samples of the venom. In doing so, the researchers observed a change in its color, from clear to brownish, as it was exposed to air. Diving further into the reasons why, the team found two compounds to be behind the transformation, with one changing to red and the other to blue as the substance was exposed.