Researchers may have an antidote for the deadliest jellyfish sting on Earth


The Humble Scot!
May 19, 2009
The sting of a box jellyfish can kill a person in minutes. But scientists have long been at pains to figure out the secret of its fast-acting venom, which can also cause severe agony, inflammation, and heart attacks. A new study may have the answer—and a potential antidote.

The finding is “tour de force,” says Angel Yanagihara, a biochemist who studies jellyfish venom at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, but who wasn’t involved with the work.

Up to 40 people die each year from box jellies, according to available figures. But that number is vastly underreported, Yanagihara says. “People die and there is no trace in the public records.” In the Philippines alone, she estimates some 500 people die from box jelly stings each year. And as the ocean warms—and as the range and number of box jellyfish rises—problematic encounters will likely increase.

But to date, no one knows how the box jelly’s venom targets and enters human cells. Previous work on their venom has shown that pore-forming proteins, called porins, destroy red blood cells and damage cell membranes, potentially resulting in pain and death. Yet, more components could be responsible.

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