Monday, 13 May 2013

Engineered Spider Toxin Could Be the Future of Anti-Venom Vaccines

May 9, 2013 — New engineered spider protein could be the start of a new generation of anti-venom vaccines, potentially saving thousands of lives worldwide. The new protein, created from parts of a toxin from the reaper spider, is described today in the Elsevier journal Vaccine

The researchers behind the study, from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, say that the engineered protein may be a promising candidate for developing therapeutic serums or vaccines against other venoms. 

Reaper spiders, or brown spiders, are a family of species found all over the world that produce harmful venoms. The toxic bite of these spiders causes skin around the bite to die, and can lead to more serious effects like kidney failure and haemorrhaging. These Loxosceles spiders are most prevalent in Brazil, where they cause almost 7,000 human accidents every year. 

The new study describes an engineered protein made of three pieces of a venom toxin from the Loxosceles intermedia spider. The engineered protein is not itself toxic, and gives effective protection against the effects of the pure spider venom in animal models. 

"In Brazil we see thousands of cases of people being bitten by Loxosceles spiders, and the bites can have very serious side-effects," said Dr. Chávez-Olortegui, corresponding author of the study. "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." 

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