Preliminary findings from scientific researchers in Brazil and the United Kingdom have shown that venom from the jararacussu snake may be effective at killing the Coronavirus. The virus that is otherwise known as SarsCov2 causes the COVID-19 viral disease that has infected more than 200 million people worldwide. The deadly disease has killed at least 4 million people already as of September 2021.
A study published in the scientific journal Molecules in August found that the molecule produced by the jararacussu pit viper inhibited the virus’s ability to multiply in monkey cells by 75 percent.
According to a researcher based at the Chemistry Institute (IQ) of the State University of Sao Paulo, the venom from the jararacussu snake (Bothrops jararacussu) contain a peptide (protein molecule) that inhibits the reproduction of the Coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2).
“We found a peptide that is not toxic to cells, but that inhibits virus replication. With this, if the compound becomes a medicine in the future, the organism would gain time to act and create the necessary antibodies, since the virus would have its infection speed compromised and would not advance in the organism”, explains Eduardo Maffud Cilli, professor at IQ and one of the authors of the work.
How the jararacussu venom stops SARS-COV-2 (Covid-19)
Because the jararacussu snake is common in Brazil, the venom is readily available. According to the published research, the peptide inside the snake venom attacks and inhibits the PLPro enzyme that is found inside the Coronavirus cells. This PLPro is the one that enables the virus to replicate (reproduce and make more copies of the virus in the victim’s body).
Since the PLPro is inhibited by the molecule inside the snake venom, the viral load of the Coronavirus does not multiply and hence does not infect more healthy cells in the victim’s body, according to scientists who performed the research in Brazil.
According to the scientific community involved in the study of the Coronavirus, all Covid-19 variants contain the PLPro enzyme. This makes the jararacussu venom more interesting in potentially stopping the global pandemic on its tracks.
How the Research Was Conducted
The researchers already knew the progression and multiplication of Coronavirus inside the subject’s body (monkey in this case). The monkey cells grown in the laboratory are injected with the jararacussu venom that has the peptide molecule. After one hour, the Coronavirus is injected into the monkey cells containing the snake poison.
About two days later, the researchers analyze and evaluate the extent to which the venom molecule stopped the Coronavirus from multiplying (reproducing).
In a second stage of the study, in which the researchers identified one of the mechanisms of action of the snake venom peptide, the compound was specifically tested against the PLPro enzyme found in the Coronavirus, which was obtained at the São Carlos Institute of Physics (IFSC) at USP.
This is a developing study as the snake venom peptide will be subjected to a series of testing against the virus before it can be used in humans. Some of these tests will include: determining the effectiveness of the snake venom peptide against COVID-19 in various dosages, concentrations and duration of the treatment, as well as effectiveness in various age-groups of people and the disease variants.