Box jellyfish of the Chironex species are among the most venomous animals in the world, capable of killing humans with their sting. Their venom, though, which kills by rapidly punching holes in human red blood cells, can be slowed down by administering zinc, according to research published December 12 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Angel Yanagihara from the University of Hawaii and colleagues.
The researchers developed ways to extract venom from the jellyfish, and tested it on human blood and on mice. They found that the venom created pores in human red blood cells, making them leak large amounts of potassium, which causes cardiac arrest and death.
As Yanagihara elaborates, "For over 60 years researchers have sought to understand the horrifying speed and potency of the venom of the Australian box jellyfish, arguably the most venomous animal in the world. We have found that a previously disregarded hemolysin can cause an avalanche of reactions in cells. This includes an almost instantaneous, massive release of potassium that can cause acute cardiovascular collapse and death."
The authors treated the cells with a zinc compound which inhibits this process, and found that the treatment could slow the pore-forming process in cells, and increased survival times in the mice treated with the compound, zinc gluconate. The research suggests that the venom's capacity to increase potassium levels is what makes it so dangerous, and that rapid administration of zinc may be a potential life-saver in human sting victims.
Yanagihara AA, Shohet RV (2012) Cubozoan Venom-Induced Cardiovascular Collapse Is Caused by Hyperkalemia and Prevented by Zinc Gluconate in Mice. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51368. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051368
Public Library of Science: http://www.plos.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Polish doctors used cells from patient's nose to heal spinal injury
Like any trench war, the fight to protect America's kids against disease is proceeding only inch by inch. A new report shows why there's reason for hope—and reason for worry
Decontaminating biohazard sites can be a tough job, but the hardest microbe to wash away may not be what you think
The discovery of a possible trigger for the onset of Parkinson's disease could lead to new treatments for patients who still depend on a 50-year-old drug
Many people experience severe anxiety in mundane social situations, such as group introductions or paying bills. Why does this happen? And is there any useful purpose to it?
Along with the usual suspects, cigarettes and booze, the European code for avoiding cancer has been updated to include having the HPV vaccine and breastfeeding
Lose the pounds too fast, gain them all back? It seems not. Crash dieters regain the same amount of lost weight as those taking a longer-term approach
A new study suggests a little spending now can buy you a lot of time later
Researchers have identified a chemical that melanoma cells follow when they spread around the body raising the prospect of eventually switching it off
Some of the planet’s scariest, most lethal viruses find a natural refuge inside bats, including Ebola, rabies, Marburg and the SARS coronavirus. Many high-profile epidemics have been traced back to bats, and scientists are discovering new bat-borne viruses all the time.