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Modified Spider Toxin May Be the Key to Anti-Venom Vaccines

Update Date: May 09, 2013 10:10 AM EDT

In the South America country, Brazil as well as other tropical areas, people live with and encounter deadly insects frequently. These insects, particularly spiders, pack quite a punch in their bites, causing severe damages and even death. Due to the potential dangers of these spiders, researchers from the University Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil have experimented with modifying spider venom to create a possible vaccine against deadly toxins. The researchers announced that they have created an engineered protein that promises to be a good candidate for making future therapeutic serums and anti-venom vaccines.

The research team focused on the toxin taken from the Loxosceles intermedia spider, which is also known as the reaper or brown spiders. These spiders' bites can lead to kidney failure, hemorrhages and death. A majority of these spiders can be found in Brazil and they are responsible for nearly 7,000 human accidents per year within this nation. From this spider, the researchers engineered a non-toxic protein that could possibly protect people against the dangerous effects of pure spider venom.

"Existing anti-venoms are made of the pure toxins and can be harmful to people who take them. We wanted to develop a new way of protecting people from the effects of these spider bites, without having to suffer from side effects, "said Dr. Chávez-Olortegui, corresponding author of the study.

The researchers created the protein in the lab and based from the effects it had on animals, it could protect organisms from more than one type of toxin simultaneously. The protein was tested on lab rabbits and they found that every immunized rabbit was effectively protected from the venom of L. intermedia ad L, gaucho sub-species of spiders. The results have proved to be promising and the researchers hope that these results will be similar in humans.

The study was published in Vaccine

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