Researchers have found an antidote to this venom is so deadly box jellyfish can kill 60 people. Named for its cuboid shape, the Australian box jellyfish has about 60 tentacles that can grow up to 10 feet (3 m) long. Venom can cause excruciating pain, cardiac arrest and death just minutes. We were looking at how the venom works, to try to better understand how the venom causes pain. The research team used the gene-editing techniques we could quickly find how its powerful venom kills human cells. The jellyfish venom pathway we identified in this study requires cholesterol, and since there are lots of drugs available that target cholesterol, we could try to block the jellyfish venom pathway we identified in this study to see how this affected venom activity.
Genome editing is a technology that allows scientists to add, remove, or alter genetic material in an organism. Researchers used this method to knock different human gene from millions of human cells. One by one, Australian researchers added the box jellyfish venom – which kills cells survived.
“We took one of those drugs, which our know is safe for human use, and we used human use worked”, said Lead Author Dr. Raymond Lau.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, used CRISPR whole genome editing to find how its powerful venom works. Running tests using human cells and mice, researchers at the University of Sydney found they could stop tissue scarring and pain associated with the sting as long as the medicine was injected within 15 minutes.
“We know the drug will stop the necrosis, skin scarring and the pain completely when applied to the skin”, said Associate Professor Greg Neely.
The discovery described in a paper published in Nature Communications. Researchers found a “molecular antidote” which blocks the symptoms of a box jellyfish sting if administered to the skin within 15 minutes. Researchers hope to develop a topical application for humans. Australian researchers believe they have found an antidote to a sting from the world’s most venomous creature, the much-feared box jellyfish.
The antidote was first tested on human cells outside the body and on live mice. But now researchers at the University of Sydney have found drugs that seem to at least partly block the venom’s ability.
“Our drug works on the big beast”, said Associate Professor Greg Neely, one of the study’s authors. “The team used specific types of drugs that absorb cholesterol, to block venom”.
Researchers at the University of Sydney hopes that eventually a topical cream or spray can be developed to prevent stings that are thought to kill dozens of people each year and hospitalize thousands more. They noticed the venom needs cholesterol to kill human cells and decided to test whether existing drugs could be used to stop a heart attack induced by a box jellyfish sting. Stings from box jellyfish – which can be smaller than a fingernail or up to three meters long depending on the species – can cause acute muscular pain, violent vomiting, feelings of “impending doom”, hair that stands on end, strokes, heart failure and death within minutes. So far, they have only tested the sting from the larger, more deadly species.
Prof Neely added: “So now we are trying to work with the state or national government, or first responders, to see if we can move this venom antidote forward for human use”.