Venom from this gigantic snake could stop the spread of Covid-19

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Molecules from the venom of the jararacussu inhibited the spread of coronavirus in monkey cells (Reuters)

They key to stopping the spread of the coronavirus may be found inside the venom of one of Brazil’s biggest snakes.

Researchers found a molecule in the venom of the jararacussu pit viper inhibited coronavirus reproduction in monkey cells.

A study published in the scientific journal Molecules this month said the molecule dropped the virus’s ability to multiply in monkey cells by 75%.

‘We were able to show this component of snake venom was able to inhibit a very important protein from the virus,’ said Rafael Guido, a University of Sao Paulo professor and an author of the study.

The molecule is a peptide, or chain of amino acids, that can connect to an enzyme of the coronavirus called PLPro, which is vital to reproduction of the virus, without hurting other cells.

A researcher works on a sample inside a laboratory at the University of Sao Paulo's Institute of Physics for a study in which the institute claims to have discovered a 75% drop in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) production after cells came into contact with jararacussu snake venom, in Sao Carlos, Brazil August 30, 2021. Picture taken August 30, 2021. REUTERS/Carla Carniel
A researcher works on a sample inside a laboratory at the University of Sao Paulo’s Institute of Physics (Reuters)

Already known for its antibacterial qualities, the peptide can be synthesized in the laboratory, Guido said in an interview, making the capture or raising of the snakes unnecessary.

‘We’re wary about people going out to hunt the jararacussu around Brazil, thinking they’re going to save the world … That’s not it!’ said Giuseppe Puorto, a herpetologist running the Butantan Institute’s biological collection in Sao Paulo.

‘It’s not the venom itself that will cure the coronavirus.’

Researchers will next evaluate the efficiency of different doses of the molecule and whether it is able to prevent the virus from entering cells in the first place.

They hope to test the substance in human cells but gave no timeline.

A jararacussu snake, whose venom is used in a study against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is seen at Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 27, 2021. Picture taken August 27, 2021. REUTERS/Carla Carniel
The jararacussu pit viper is one of the largest snakes in Brazil (Reuters)

The jararacussu is one of the largest snakes in Brazil, measuring up to 6 feet (2 meters) long.

It lives in the coastal Atlantic Forest and is also found in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina.


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