Culture

Unknown Toxin Found in the Venom of Centipedes Has Been Identified

This risky group of centipede is called as Chinese red-headed centipede or sometimes it is known as golden-headed centipede.

The study's abstract notes that centipedes are very efficient in their use of venom, which is "metabolically expensive" to produce but is very effective at taking down larger prey, thereby securing large meals for the centipede.

They named it the Ssm Spooky Toxin, the Ssm coming from the centipede's scientific name Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans.

The study reveals that scientists have finally got the exact chemical composition of the centipede's venom and have successfully isolated the chemicals to analyze them independently. According to the scientists, the toxin has a great capability of putting an animal down efficiently. The toxin works, the team reports, by blocking potassium from moving in and out of cells. This results in the immediate death of the victim. "This molecular strategy has not been found in other venomous animals". Although the toxin released from the venomous bite can prove to be deadly for smaller creatures, it has less effect on large creatures like human beings.

When people are bitten by a golden head centipede, they experience a lot of pain, so much that many take themselves to a hospital for relief. The reason why scientists were particularly attracted by this species of centipede is that their venom is known to be extremely deadly, killing its prey in a matter of seconds. Between 2007 and 2011, for Hawaiian emergency visits classified as having natural causes, centipedes were responsible for 1 in 10 cases, on a par with bee and wasp stings.

While the venom is rarely fatal for humans, it is agonising.

A potential antidote exists in a drug called Retigabine, which reestablishes potassium channels when they are blocked. Retigabine is known for its ability to re-establish potassium channel.



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