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Scientists Just Discovered a Bunch of Medical Uses for Scorpion Venom

Scientists have made the stunning discovery that scorpion venom is highly effective at killing deadly bacteria.

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Antidote to Staph, Tuberculosis in Scorpion Venom
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(TMU) — Researchers in Mexico and the U.S. have made the stunning discovery that venom from a scorpion native to Eastern Mexico is highly effective at killing deadly bacteria, including those that cause staph infections and tuberculosis (TB).

Thousands of animal species ranging from spiders to wasps, snakes, fish and frogs have venom that can cause mild irritations, induce hallucinations, or even kill adult humans. However, these latest findings highlight the potent ability of toxins from venomous creatures such as snakes, scorpions and snails to provide natural antidotes to bacterial infections.

A team of scientists from California’s Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), who published their findings this week, found that not only does the Diplocentrus melici scorpion’s venom not cause harm to human tissue, but its two key color-changing compounds can also be synthesized in a lab and used to destroy staphylococcus and drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.

Lourival Possani, a professor of molecular medicine at UNAM’s Institute of Biotechnology, has spent 45 years searching for the identification of compounds with pharmacological potential within scorpion poison. His group has previously discovered potent natural antibiotics, insecticides and antimalarial agents in the arachnid’s venom.

However, the doctor told La Jornada that it is exceedingly difficult to find the insects, which can only be found during the rainy season. During the dry season, the scorpions burrow underground. The simple act by Possani’s team of capturing a few specimens of D. melici was difficult enough, let alone extracting and identifying the key compounds in the scorpion’s venom.

To extract or “milk” the venom from the scorpions, researchers applied a mild electric stimulus to their tails. After doing so, the venom turned into a brownish color once exposed to air.

Richard Zare, a senior study author who led the group of chemists from Stanford and has a reputation for identifying and synthesizing chemicals, explained:

“We only had 0.5 microliters of the venom to work with. This is 10 times less than the amount of blood a mosquito will suck in a single serving.”

After performing a number of highly sensitive tests, the research teams identified the two chemical compounds of 1,4-benzoquinone as those responsible for the change in color. Each of the compounds turned a different color, with one turning blue and the other turning red the moment they came in contact with air.

With the compounds’ structures confirmed, the Stanford team was able to begin recreating synthetic versions in their lab. Zare said:

“By volume, scorpion venom is one of the most precious materials in the world. It would costs $39 million to produce a gallon of it.

If you depended only on scorpions to produce it, nobody could afford it, so it’s important to identify what the critical ingredients are and be able to synthesize them.”

A batch of the synthesized benzoquinones was then shipped to Mexico City, where it was tested by pathologist Rogelio Hernandez-Pando of the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Health Sciences and Nutrition.

In lab tests, Hernández-Pando’s group discovered that the red compound was a potent killer of the highly infectious staphylococcus bacteria, while the blue compound was lethal to normal and multi-drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis-causing bacteria.

Zare explained:

“We found that these compounds killed bacteria, but then the question became ‘Will it kill you, too?’ … And the answer is no: Hernández-Pando’s group showed that the blue compound kills tuberculosis bacteria but leaves the lining of the lungs in mice intact.”

While plenty of work still needs to be done before we see drugs that can effectively treat TB and staph infections, the results of this work—published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—show the potential of using the D. melici scorpion for good.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years

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Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.

“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.

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