Snails as an alternative to morphine

Snails as an alternative to morphine

A compound extracted from the 'Conus regius' snail acts by inhibiting pain through a route other than that used by opiates such as morphine.

A team of Australian scientists from the Australian University of Queensland, led by David Craik, has discovered an analgesic that is obtained from a small protein, conotoxins, found in the venom of sea snails, with a potency one hundred times greater than that of morphine and with fewer side effects.

The snails

There are about 700 species of snails of the genus Conus distributed throughout the world, which have inherited a history of about 50 million years on Earth, and about 100 include poisons that are coupled with anesthetics that can be synthesized and used as drugs.

A hundred species of sea snails that live in the depths are considered exceptionally dangerous, and their poison for humans can be deadly, but they have a solution for many diseases: they take away pain and are a thousand times more effective than morphine.

The pharmacological components of conus magus have been approved since 2004 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States.

However, medical research has had to deal with the poisonous effect of these species.


The first anesthetic made from a synthetic version of the conotoxins known as CTX MVIIA, from the Conus magnus snail, was already approved by the FDA in 2004, and "proved to be 1000 times more potent than morphine," reports the curator.

It works selectively by blocking calcium channels, deactivating the nerves that transmit pain. Currently these conotoxins are being investigated in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and epilepsy "

Opiates, their negative side

The medicinal properties of opiates have been known and studied for thousands of years, but they are known to be addictive and can cause death by overdose.

The discovery of an alternative to these drugs can be a great solution, although studies have yet to be completed to ensure their safety for human consumption.

Nature in general and the seabed in particular are an excellent reservoir of substances with great medical properties, some already discovered and many others hidden, waiting for someone to one day realize their potential.

With information from:

Video: This Is What Happens to Your Brain on Opioids. Short Film Showcase (October 2020).