WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A team of researchers in Brazil found a component in the venom of the jararacussu pit viper that can inhibit the coronavirus’s ability to multiply in monkey cells.
- The peptide in question can also be synthesized in the laboratory without the need for the snake venom itself.
- The researchers plan to test the efficiency of different doses of the molecule and its ability to prevent the virus from entering cells.
A molecule in the venom of a Brazilian snake, the jararacussu pit viper, was found to have reduced the ability of the coronavirus to reproduce in monkey cells by 75%.
The jararacussu lives in the coastal Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Growing up to 6 feet (2 meters) long, it is one of the country’s largest snakes. It can also be found in Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
Study author Rafael Guido, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo, explained, “We were able to show this component of snake venom was able to inhibit a very important protein from the virus.”
The molecule in question is a peptide or a chain of amino acids. It has the ability to connect to a coronavirus enzyme called PLPro, which is vital to the virus’s reproduction, without hurting other cells.
Guido clarified that the peptide, which is already known for its antibacterial qualities, can be synthesized in the laboratory. This means that it doesn’t have to be extracted from the snakes.
Herpetologist Giuseppe Puorto, who oversees the Butantan Institute’s biological collection in Sao Paulo, remarked, “We’re wary about people going out to hunt the jararacussu around Brazil, thinking they’re going to save the world … That’s not it! It’s not the venom itself that will cure the coronavirus.”
The State University of Sao Paulo (Unesp), which was also involved in the research, detailed the next steps of the study.
The research team will test the efficiency of different doses of the molecule, and whether it can also prevent the virus from entering cells in the first place.
They also plan to conduct trials involving human cells, but there is no timeline for that yet.
The study was published this month in the scientific journal Molecules.