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Researchers Engineer Toxin Offering Protection From Spider Venom

May 09, 2013 07:45 AM EDT

Researchers from Brazil have engineered a spider protein that can help save thousands of lives by changing the way anti-venom vaccines are created currently. The new protein can be a good candidate for vaccines against other venoms.

The protein was created using parts of protein from Reaper spiders, or brown spiders that are found all around the world and are known to produce venom. In Brazil, these spiders cause about 7,000 injuries a year.

"In Brazil we see thousands of cases of people being bitten by Loxosceles spiders, and the bites can have very serious side-effects. Existing anti-venoms are made of the pure toxins and can be harmful to people who take them. We wanted to develop a new way of protecting people from the effects of these spider bites, without having to suffer from side-effects," said Dr. Chávez-Olortegui, corresponding author of the study. The study was conducted by researchers from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil.

The engineered protein was created from three pieces of a venom toxin from the Loxosceles intermedia spider. The protein isn't toxic and researchers found that the protein provided protection from venom in animal models.

Researchers add that since the current method of developing vaccines against venom involves injuring animals, an engineered protein could be a good way of producing vaccine. Also, the protein can offer protection against many types of venoms.

"It's not easy taking venom from a spider, a snake or any other kind of venomous animal," said Chávez-Olortegui in a news release. "With our new method, we would be able to engineer the proteins in the lab without having to isolate whole toxins from venom. This makes the whole process much safer."

The study, "Generation and characterization 1 of a recombinant chimeric protein (rCpLi) consisting of B-cell epitopes of a dermonecrotic protein from Loxosceles intermedia spider venom", is published in the journal Vaccine

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