If you have ever been stung by one of these claw-wielding eight legged arachnids, the shooting pain and discomfort you found yourself wallowing in would undeniably have taken your hatred for scorpions to new heights.
But cut these animals some slack. Their venom is not all pins and needles throbs after all as doctors have found that scorpion venom could be used to remedy some human infections, after an experiment on mice revealed it kills bacteria without having any fatal effects.
With venom drawn from the Diplocentrus melici scorpion- found in Mexico- and injected into the mice that had strains responsible for diseases such as tuberculosis, the venom proved effective and managed to fight off bacteria with no implication on the healthy tissues in the mice.
Scientist however estimate that it could cost up to £34m per gallon to produce for medicine owing to the difficulties involved in extracting the venom from such a specific and deadly arachnid.
Study senior author, Professor Richard Zare of Stanford University, explained: ‘These compounds might not be the poisonous component of the venom.
‘We have no idea why the scorpion makes these compounds. There are more mysteries.’
Working closely with Professor Lourival Possani- who has focused on identifying the medicinal prospects in scorpion venom for 45 years- Professor Zare milked some specimen of the Diplocentrus melici scorpion species for their venom, and found two chief chemical compounds called benzoquinones.
Professor Zare said: ‘We only had 0.5 microliters of the venom to work with. This is ten times less than the amount of blood a mosquito will suck in a single serving.’
Further tests were run on the benzoquinones by Dr Rogelio Hernández-Pando at the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Health Sciences and Nutrition, in Mexico City, and he arrived that red 1,4-benzoquinone- one of the chemicals in the compound successfully neutralized Staphylococcus aureus, a known cause of various skin infections.
The other key chemical, blue 1,4-benzoquinone, was also discovered to be lethal to strains of tuberculosis-causing bacteria – both normal and those resistant to drugs.
Professor Zare went on: ‘We found that these compounds killed bacteria, but then the question became “Will it kill you, too?”.
‘And the answer is no: Hernández-Pando’s group showed that the blue compound kills tuberculosis bacteria but leaves the lining of the lungs in mice intact.’
‘By volume, scorpion venom is one of the most precious materials in the world. It would costs $39million (£34,703,000) to produce a gallon of it.
‘If you depended only on scorpions to produce it, nobody could afford it, so it’s important to identify what the critical ingredients are and be able to synthesize them,’ he added.