ONE bite from a black mamba can kill a person within half an hour. Strangely though, venom from what’s arguably the world’s deadliest snake could actually be a painkiller on a par with morphine.
In search of a new analgesic, Anne Baron at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology in Valbonne, France, and her colleagues, hunted through hundreds of compounds for one that blocks acid-sensing ion channels in nerves. These are key in a common pain pathway. The successful compound turned out to be venom from a black mamba.
Baron’s team then identified which proteins in the venom blocked the ion channels, before naming them mambalgins and purifying them to produce a drug.