Brazilian researchers have discovered a molecule in the venom of a snake that prevents the reproduction of the emerging coronavirus in monkey cells, this could be an initial step in arriving at a drug that can combat the coronavirus.
The “Garacuso” snake, one of the largest snakes in Brazil that reaches 6 feet (2 meters) in length, venom carries that molecule. The snake can also be found in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina.
The molecule found is vital for virus replication, since it can contact an enzyme from the coronavirus
called PLPro without causing harm to other cells.
"We were able to show that this component of snake venom was able to inhibit a very important protein in the virus," said study author Rafael Guido, a professor at the University of São Paulo.
He explained that the molecule is known for its antibacterial properties and can be synthesized in laboratories, making use of snakes unnecessary.
According to the University of São Paulo, the researchers will then evaluate the efficiency of different doses of the molecule and try to determine whether the molecule is able to prevent the virus from entering cells in the first place.The researchers hope to test the substance on human cells, but they have not given a timeline for future tests.
The director of the biological group of the Butantan Institute in São Paulo, Giuseppe Porto, an agricultural herpetologist, expressed worries about this announcement.
Porto is worried that people will try to hunt the snakes in attempts to cure the disease. He said, “We are concerned about people going out to hunt “Garacuso” all over Brazil, thinking they will save the world.”
Porto added, “It is not the poison itself that will cure the virus.” He stressed that even if the snake is captured only a team of professionals can make the medicine using the snake’s molecules.