The Durango bark scorpion. The Durango bark scorpion.

Medical application in scorpion’s venom?

Researchers identify molecule that could aid antibiotics delivery

A team of Mexican biotechnology researchers has identified a molecule in scorpion venom that could serve both as an aid in antibiotic delivery and as a bactericide disinfectant.

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The critter in question is the Durango bark scorpion (Centruroides suffusus), one of the most venomous scorpions in Mexico, according to Scorpion Worlds, and named after a state that has long been famous for the predatory arachnids.

Gerardo Corzo Burguete and Lourival Domingos Possani Postay of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) lead the research team that made the discovery.

Corzo explained to the newspaper Milenio that the cytotoxic properties of the molecule found in the scorpion’s venom, called CSS54, forms holes in the cell membranes, allowing foreign substances to enter. Once inside a cell, CSS54 can also interfere in bacterial metabolism and its growth process.

At low concentrations, the molecule’s cytotoxic properties could boost the effects of common antibiotics by allowing further penetration within the cells.

“Patients prescribed up to one gram of antibiotics face the risk of suffering kidney or liver damage. If we can provide a vehicle that enhances the antibiotics’ ability to penetrate a pathogen, we could then reduce its concentration,” Corzo said.

Given the bactericide and microbicide properties found in CSS54, the molecule could also be applied on the skin, either by itself or with added antibiotics.

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After identifying the promising properties of the molecule, Corzo and Possani have moved to the animal testing phase, using mice and rabbits to further assess the molecule’s effects.

The biggest hurdle so far has been synthesizing the molecule because the process is expensive, making it uneconomical for the pharmaceutical industry.

Undeterred, the researchers have already patented the molecule’s structure and its function for killing bacteria, and have started collaborating since with the Mexican pharmaceutical firm Laboratorios Silanes, which provides them with funding.

” . . . We already have the molecule’s proof of concept, we now have to start pre-clinical testing,” he added.

“If we get funding soon, in two years we could know if [the molecule] can be commercialized.”

Meanwhile, there used to be so many scorpions in Durango that the state capital put a bounty on them until it was discovered that some enterprising locals had started breeding them to collect the bounty, according to Geo-Mexico.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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