Can sea snail venom be used to treat malaria?

Scientists are indeed interested in this marine snail and in particular its venom, which contrary to all expectations could have many uses in the medical field as opposed to its deadly side for humans.

In fact, this animal’s venom would contain special compounds that would allow us not only to treat cancer, but also to develop new types of pain relievers that we can use to treat all kinds of diseases, including malaria, reports ScienceAlert.

The venom of this sea snail would have strong therapeutic potential

For your information, malaria is a disease that affects hundreds of millions of people each year. Still, through a study, scientists discovered that the molecular components of sea slug venom could help treat severe forms of malaria by attacking Plasmodium falciparum, the protozoal parasite responsible for the disease.

The study, which appeared in the Journal of Proteomics, was conducted by researchers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and focused on the marine snail species Conus nux. The researchers collected this sample off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and analyzed the composition of its toxins, the so-called conotoxins. These are neurotoxic peptides that attack proteins that are on the surface of cells.

However, if these conotoxins were deadly to the opponents of Conus nux, they would have enormous therapeutic potential that could be exploited. According to biomedical researcher Andrew Oleinikov, “conotoxins have been rigorously studied for decades as molecular probes and conductors of drugs targeting the central nervous system.”

Conus nux could improve the treatment of many serious diseases

The researchers explain that in severe forms of malaria, the problem is cytoadhesion of the affected blood cells, even after the parasites have been killed by drug treatment. They therefore confirm in their study that the cytoadhesion between the erythrocytes infected by the protozoal parasite and the host’s receptors is the key factor for the virulence of the parasite.

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium, which are transmitted to humans through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Photo credit: Shutterstock / nechaevkon

Eliminating the parasite’s adhesion to receptors in the host’s vasculature could thus increase the effectiveness of current and future chemotherapies and contribute to the development of drugs that eliminate the parasite more quickly. And this is where conotoxins come in, as researchers have found that this poison disrupts protein interactions that promote cytoadhesion.

The researchers therefore confirm that these results indicate that conotoxins and conopeptides “disrupt the protein-protein and protein-polysaccharide interactions that directly contribute to the disease”. So far, scientists have only done this research in the laboratory, but they claim their discovery could significantly improve the pharmaceutical sector and even increase the effectiveness of treating severe cases of malaria and even cancer, AIDS. And why not, the Covid-19.