It could also be used in the treatment of diseases such as AIDS and COVID-19, suggest researchers


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Conus nux poison can be used to develop treatments for severe malaria and other diseases, according to a study by the Florida Atlantic University School of Medicine (FAU) published in the journal "Journal of Proteomics".

The researchers, who had the collaboration of FAU's Charles E. Schmidt School of Science and the Division of Chemical Sciences of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, started from the idea that non-stick drugs can be the key to improving the survival rates of a disease such as malaria that causes more than 400,000 deaths a year.

According to a FAU statement on the results of this study, some types of malaria such as Plasmodium falciparum can be fatal even after treatment with current drugs.

This is due to the persistent "cyto-adhesion" of infected erythrocytes even though the parasites left inside the red blood cells are dead.

"The study provides important clues to the development of novel and cost-effective non-stick drugs or blocking therapy aimed at counteracting the pathology of severe malaria," the statement says.

Costa Rican snails were used in the study

Researchers used in their exemplary conus nux trials collected off costa Rica's Pacific coast. This poisonous snail lives on tropical reefs, in the Indian and Pacific, and hunts small fish.

The trials revealed the "in vitro" ability of conical snail venom to disrupt protein-protein and protein-polysacchaid interactions that directly contribute to the pathology of Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

The study expands the pharmacological scope of conotoxins/conopeptides, present in conus nux snail venom, by revealing their ability to disrupt protein-protein and protein-polysacchaid interactions that contribute directly to the disease, he adds.

Could be treating diseases such as AIDS and COVID-19

Similarly, conotoxins could be used as possible inhibitors of protein-protein interactions as a treatment for diseases such as AIDS and COVID-19.

The poison peptides of cone snails have the potential to treat countless diseases through blocking therapies.

"Molecular stability, small size, solubility, intravenous administration and the absence of immunogenic response make conotoxins excellent candidates for blocking therapy," said Andrew V. Oleinikov, corresponding author and professor of biomedical sciences at Schmidt Medical School.

"Conotoxins have been extensively studied for decades as molecular probes and drug guides aimed at the central nervous system. They should also be explored for novel applications aimed at thwarting incorrect cellular responses or thwarting host parasite interactions through their binding with endogenous and exogenous proteins," he added.

"Among the more than 850 species of cone snails are hundreds of thousands of diverse poisonous exopeptides that have been selected over several million years of evolution to capture their prey and deter predators," said Frank Marí, corresponding author and senior advisor of biochemical sciences at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The co-authors of the study are Alberto Padilla, a graduate alum student at Schmidt Medical School; Sanaz Dovell, former student of the Charles E. Schmidt Faculty of Sciences; Olga Chesnokov, associate researcher at Schmidt School of Medicine, and Mickelene Hoggard of the Division of Chemical Sciences at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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