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Box jellyfish: Australian researchers find antidote for world's most venomous creature

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Jellyfish’s sting carries enough venom to kill more than 60 people

 University of Sydney researchers have found a ‘molecular antidote’ that blocks the symptoms of a box jellyfish sting if applied to the skin within 15 minutes. Photograph: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

An antidote has been discovered for the world’s most venomous creature, the Australian box jellyfish.

Researchers at the University of Sydney have found an antidote for the sting of the jellyfish – which carries enough venom to kill more than 60 people.

A single sting from the creature will cause excruciating pain and skin necrosis and, if the dose of venom is large enough, cardiac arrest and death within just minutes.

Using genome editing, pain researchers at the university’s Charles Perkins Centre found a “molecular antidote” that blocks the symptoms of a box jellyfish sting if applied to skin within 15 minutes.

The researchers took millions of human cells and knocked out a different human gene in each one, before adding the jellyfish venom and looking for cells that survived the process.

“It’s the first molecular dissection of how this type of venom works, and possibly how any venom works,” the study’s lead author, Raymond Lau, said.

The researchers believe the drug – which is safe for human use and is already available – will stop necrosis, skin scarring and pain completely when applied to the skin, but further research is needed to find out whether it will stop a heart attack.

The antidote was shown to work on human cells outside the body before being successfully tested on live mice. Scientists now want to develop a topical application for humans.

The findings were published in the Nature Communications journal.


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