12 July 2024
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Milking Venom from Australia’s Deadly Marine Animals: A Life-Saving Endeavor

Australia is renowned for its unique and diverse wildlife, including some of the world’s most venomous marine animals. In a bid to understand these deadly creatures and protect human lives, toxicologist Jamie Seymour and his team at James Cook University in Queensland are engaged in the crucial task of milking venom from these animals to create life-saving antivenoms.

Seymour, who has been stung multiple times by creatures like the Irukandji jellyfish and the stonefish, emphasizes the extreme pain and danger associated with these encounters. Despite the lethal potential of these marine animals, fatalities are relatively rare in Australia. Official data shows that between 2001 and 2017, there was an average of 32 animal-related deaths per year, with horses and cows posing a greater threat than venomous sea creatures.

Milking Venom for Antivenom Production: A Complex Process

Seymour’s facility is the sole institution in Australia that extracts venom from deadly marine animals like the box jellyfish and the stonefish to produce antivenoms. The process involves intricate steps, such as removing tentacles from box jellyfish, freeze-drying them, and collecting the venom. For the stonefish, researchers carefully extract the venom using a syringe and then send it to a specialized facility in Victoria for processing into antivenom.

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While there is currently no antivenom for the Irukandji jellyfish, prompt medical attention can significantly increase the chances of survival for those stung by this tiny but potent creature. The antivenoms produced from the venom extracted by Seymour’s team are distributed to hospitals across Australia and some Pacific islands, where they play a crucial role in treating envenomation cases.

Climate Change and Venomous Marine Animals: A Growing Concern

With climate change affecting ocean temperatures and marine ecosystems, the behavior and distribution of venomous sea creatures like the Irukandji jellyfish are also changing. Seymour’s research has shown that warming oceans are extending the stinging season of the jellyfish, posing a heightened risk to beachgoers and marine enthusiasts.

Moreover, temperature variations can alter the toxicity of venom, making it crucial to adapt antivenom production processes to match the conditions in which these animals thrive. Despite the challenges posed by climate change, Seymour remains dedicated to his work of understanding venom components and developing effective treatments for envenomation cases.

Exploring the Therapeutic Potential of Venom: Beyond Antivenoms

Apart from creating antivenoms, venom extracted from marine animals has shown promise in treating various health conditions. Research has indicated that venom from stinging creatures could potentially be used to address ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, showcasing the diverse therapeutic applications of these potent substances.

Seymour likens venom to a complex mixture, with numerous components that hold potential for medical breakthroughs. While this area of research remains underfunded, the discoveries made by Seymour and his team highlight the untapped potential of venom in developing novel treatments for a range of health conditions.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2018/Venom-from-deadly-marine-animals-could-help-treat-pain 2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-08-21/milking-venom-from-australias-deadly-marine-animals/10136032 3. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/venom-milking-australia-marine-animals

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Venom extraction, Antivenom production, Marine animal venom

Syringe
A syringe is a simple reciprocating pump consisting of a plunger (though in modern syringes, it is actually a piston) that fits tightly within a cylindrical tube called a barrel. The plunger can be linearly pulled and pushed along the inside of the tube, allowing the syringe to take in...
Read more: Syringe

Antivenom
Antivenom, also known as antivenin, venom antiserum, and antivenom immunoglobulin, is a specific treatment for envenomation. It is composed of antibodies and used to treat certain venomous bites and stings. Antivenoms are recommended only if there is significant toxicity or a high risk of toxicity. The specific antivenom needed depends...
Read more: Antivenom

Venom
Venom or zootoxin is a type of toxin produced by an animal that is actively delivered through a wound by means of a bite, sting, or similar action. The toxin is delivered through a specially evolved venom apparatus, such as fangs or a stinger, in a process called envenomation. Venom...
Read more: Venom

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