Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Creature Feature: Jararacussu.

Go take a look in your medicine cabinet. Go. I'll wait.

Everything that you just saw came from something in nature. Most medicines are derived from plant barks, oils, etc. Some medicines, such as insulin, are human bodily fluids grown in other animals. Vampire bat saliva has one of the best anticoagulants out there. Medicine can come from all sorts of weird sources.

The snake doesn't like where this is going.

Surprise, surprise: there are even a select few medicines that are derived from snake venom. We are not talking antivenins; there is a medicine called lisinopril (among a few other ACE inhibitors) that are derived from the venom of the Jararacussu (Bothrops jararaca), a pit viper native to Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

"Pit viper" should set off a few alarms. That alone tells one that this snake is not only poisonous, but it has those heat-sensing pits that humans can only hope to simulate. It is very common throughout its range and is one of the leading causes of death by snakebite in South America.

Jarara venom has an effect that would make any goth happy if it were not lethal: It keeps blood from coagulating. When this snake bites, not only do unpleasant symptoms such as shock and renal failure occur, but the bite just keeps bleeding. It's hemophilia in a bite!

This venom is not used as the best murder weapon ever. Its effects on the bloodstream have led it to be used as medicine for hypertension (AKA high blood pressure) and for preventing the retinal and renal complications of diabetes. In short, Americans are taking snake venom to deal with being fatasses.

Pick your poison wisely.

The compound mentioned earlier, lisinopril, has the anticoagulant enzyme from the venom and then some. It is prescription-only (thank you) and should not be taken by people with kidney problems. Period. There are about a million things that can and do go wrong with this medicine.

Ever hear a medicine commercial with "side effects may include..." and a laundry list that does more damage than the actual medicine could ever hope to cure? That is the case here. Side effects include blurred vision, muscle cramps, a bad case of diarrhea, rapid weight gain, infection, chest pain or tightness, increased insulin sensitivity, and sexual dysfunction. Those are just the effects that contradict the medicine's whole purpose (except the last one; that just sucks in general). There are more where that came from. (Foamy has a VERY good rant on this.)No, hallucination is not on the list.

China, you look GREAT in the face of this snake's venom being used as medicine. Seriously, go kill more tigers; at least that's a fairly harmless placebo. Sure, a few tigers will bite the dust, but at least the Chinese are not seeing Elvis in their refrigerators.

(Speaking of China, yes, they will be on "They Actually Eat That?!" again. Also, a scorpion that squirts salad dressing?!)

1 comment:

  1. Lisinopril is not actual snake venom used. They have studied the blood pressure lowering qualities and recreated a similar component by chemistry. Lisinopril works well I heart failure also strenghthening the heart and should not be discouraged in usagr