Oral drugs derived from snail venom could offer less invasive pain management

Cone snail--Courtesy of Bruce Livett and David Paul

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have developed the basis for a new class of oral drugs that they say could be used to treat chronic nerve pain. The 5 experimental substances, derived from the venom of the cone snail, which contains conotoxins, have the potential to be stronger than morphine with fewer side effects. In an animal study, which the scientists presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, a single, small-dose oral delivery of the prototype drug significantly reduced pain, according to the organization. The oral pain medication could also discourage the addiction common with opiates by working on different receptors in the brain. "It acts by a completely different mechanism than morphine so we think it has a minimal possibility of producing the side effects of that medication," lead author David Craik said in a statement. "That is one of the big advantages of this drug." Article