Could Deadly Scorpion Venom Be a Cure for COVID-19? – new research

Scientists from Egypt and the UK are working together to determine whether the scorpion venom found in the Egyptian desert could serve as a good starting point for new coronavirus drugs.

The research is being conducted at the Suez Canal University and the University of Aberdeen, the latter recently revealing the project through an article and video on its website.

“Scorpions are one of the oldest animals on Earth, having existed for more than 400 million years. Its poisons have been used in traditional therapies since ancient times in many countries, particularly China and India, ”the article explains. “Scorpion venoms contain a fascinating cocktail of biologically active peptides, many of which are very potent neurotoxins, while several have shown strong antibacterial and antiviral activities.”

Scorpion venoms “have not yet been fully studied and may represent an unorthodox source of new drugs,” said Professor Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, professor of molecular toxinology and physiology in the Department of Zoology at the University’s Faculty of Sciences. of the Suez Canal in the article.

The team began by collecting different species of scorpions from the Egyptian desert, lead researcher Dr. Wael Houssen said in the video. They had to use ultraviolet lights to find the scorpions, which are only about 6 centimeters tall and come out at night.

A surveillance study on scorpion species in Egypt published in 2013 identified eight species: Androctonus bicolor, Androctonus australis, Androctonus amoreuxi, Androctonus crassicauda, ​​Leiurus quinquestriatus, Buthacus arenicola, Orthochirus innesi, and Scorpio maurus palmatus.

The collection of the scorpions was carried out in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity and following the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable distribution of the benefits derived from their use, according to the website.

Once the scorpions were in the lab, a venom gland was removed from each one using a small electrical stimulation. A method that, according to Houssen, is completely safe and is not painful for scorpions. The animals were then returned to their natural habitat.

The venom glands were lyophilized and sent to Houssen’s lab in Aberdeen, where they could be genetically sequenced and analyzed to better understand their peptide composition and the types of toxins each scorpion might produce.

“Scorpions have a very complex structure, containing hundreds of peptides and other materials,” Houssen said.

The team separated the complex mixture into separate peptides and tested to see if these peptides had the ability to prevent the coronavirus from entering human cells.

To enter cells, the spike protein of the virus first binds to a receptor on the cell surface.

“We are looking to see how the spike protein acts in the presence of our peptides,” Houssen explained. “If our peptides are active, the binding of the spike protein [should be] inhibited “.

Houssen added that “the study of scorpion venom as a source of novel drugs is an interesting and productive area that deserves further investigation. We have already seen that these poisons contain extremely potent bioactive peptides, and we believe there are many more to discover. “

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