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A painkiller as powerful as morphine, but without most of the side-effects, has been found in the deadly venom of the black mamba, say French scientists. The predator, which uses neurotoxins to paralyse and kill small animals, is one of the fastest and most dangerous snakes in Africa. However, tests on mice, reported in the journal Nature, showed its venom also contained a potent painkiller. They admit to being completely baffled about why the mamba would produce it. The researchers looked at venom from 50 species before they found the black mamba's pain-killing proteins - called mambalgins.
Snail venom in a pill could offer powerful relief for people who suffer from severe and chronic pain. It may seem an unlikely source of pharmaceutical inspiration, but the chemicals that some snails produce have potent effects on the human nervous system. This makes them promising sources of drugs that could dull the pain of cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, car accidents and other conditions. In the latest advance, researchers have designed a venom-inspired medication that can be taken orally -- a leap forward from previous forms that needed to be injected directly into the spinal cord.