Zinc neutralises jellyfish's lethal stings

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 05:50 hrs

Washington, Dec 14 (IANS) Box jellyfish can kill humans with their lethal sting. Their venom, though, can be slowed down by administering zinc, says a study.

The study was conducted by Angel Yanagihara, from the department of tropical medicine, medical microbiology and pharmacology, University of Hawaii who led the research with colleagues.

The researchers developed ways to extract venom from the jellyfish, and tested it 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, which causes cardiac arrest and death, Public Library of Science ONE reported.

As Yanagihara elaborates: "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," according to a university statement.

"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," added Yanagihara.

The authors treated the cells with a zinc compound which inhibits this process, and found that the treatment could slow the pore-forming process in cells, and increased survival times in the mice treated with the compound, zinc gluconate.

The research suggests 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 in human sting victims.

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