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Zinc Could Treat Lethal Australian Box Jellyfish Sting

Lethal stings from the Australian box jellyfish could be treated with zinc, according to new research.

| December 17, 2012 | In the Lab

AsianScientist (Dec. 17, 2012) - Lethal stings from the Australian box jellyfish could be treated with zinc, according to new research.

Box jellyfish of the Chironex species are among the most venomous animals in the world, capable of killing humans with their sting.

In a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, Angel Yanagihara from the University of Hawaii found that the venom's capacity to increase potassium levels is what makes it so dangerous, and that rapid administration of zinc may be a potential life-saver.

The team first developed a method to extract venom from the jellyfish, which they then tested on human blood and on mice. They found that the venom created pores in human red blood cells, making them leak large amounts of potassium, and caused cardiac arrest and death for their sting victims.

When exposed to the jellyfish venom, treatment of the red blood cells with zinc gluconate slowed the pore-forming process, while mice administered the same zinc compound showed increased survival times.

"For over 60 years researchers have sought to understand the horrifying speed and potency of the venom of the Australian box jellyfish, arguably the most venomous animal in the world," said Yanagihara.

"We have found that a previously disregarded hemolysin can cause an avalanche of reactions in cells. This includes an almost instantaneous, massive release of potassium that can cause acute cardiovascular collapse and death."

Although the venomous species of the box jellyfish are largely restricted to the tropical Indo-Pacific, they can also be found further north and south, such as in California, Japan, and New Zealand.

The article can be found at: Yanagihara AA et al. (2012) Cubozoan Venom-Induced Cardiovascular Collapse Is Caused by Hyperkalemia and Prevented by Zinc Gluconate in Mice.


Source: PLOS; Photo: Robert Hartwick/PLOS.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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