Experts Cannot Figure Out Why A Scorpion Species Produces A Narcotic-Like Venom
For thousands of years, humankind has been exploring the use of plants and herbs as forms of medicine. Many of today’s pharmaceuticals are extracted from plants or are modeled after compounds found in plants. Since plants have been around for hundreds of millions of years, it is not surprising to learn that many plant species contain compounds that are similar to the compounds found in many animals and humans. However, arthropods, such as insects, arachnids and crustaceans, are nearly as old as plants, which indicates that arthropods may also contain compounds that could serve a medicinal purpose. Although you would think that scientists have been busy analyzing different insect species in order to determine their usefulness in the field of medicine, you would be wrong. In fact, medical researchers have only recently started to explore the composition of spider and insect venoms as well as their internal bodily compounds. So far, it is going well, as one scientist has recently found that the venom produced by a particular scorpion species is composed of molecules that are structurally similar to opiates and cocaine.
For 40 years, the researcher Lourival Possani Postay has been studying scorpions from every corner of the earth. Most of this time was spent in search of a scorpion venom that has medicinal value. Finally, Postay found it in a species known as Megacormus gertschi, or the Hidalgo scorpion, as it is commonly known. As it turns out, the venom of a Hidalgo scorpion contains an alkaloid that is similar to alkaloids that are produced by plants, and the drug known as morphine as well as other illicit substances. As useful as this discovery will prove to be, researchers are still unsure as to why this scorpion species produces a narcotic-like alkaloid. This alkaloid may be useful for subduing prey, but this theory needs more evidence before it can be entertained by other medical professionals. The venom also contains compounds called vanillin and histamine, which are contained within allergy medications. Back in 1996, Postay won a nobel prize for his medical research into scorpion venom.
Have you ever heard about victims of scorpion stings report odd neurological effects?