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Venom From the Banana Spider Could Be the New Viagra

Brazilian Wandering spider photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Shortness of breath, excessive salivation, tremors, and an intensely painful erection are all indications of being bitten by a highly venomous arachnid commonly known as the banana spider. So toxic is Phoneutria nigriventer, a member of the Ctenidae family of wandering spiders, that its bite has been known to kill people.

The spider is a native of the rain forests of central and South America, but it has been seen scurrying out of crates of bananas shipped to other parts of the world.

The observation that the banana spider’s bite causes priapism, prolonged erections that can damage the penis permanently, got researchers to wonder if its potent venom could be the basis of an alternate treatment for erectile dysfunction, or ED, as television commercials for Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis politely put it. About one in three men seeking a virility lift is not helped by the ED drugs currently on the market.

Brazilian and American scientists report in the current issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine that the toxin from the Brazilian wandering spider may help treat ED in humans, if tests on elderly rodents with erectile dysfunction are anything to go by.

“Researchers from Brazil and the US extracted the toxin, called PnTx2-6, from the deadly venom and injected it into rats which had age-related erectile dysfunction,” reports the UK news site MailOnline. “They found the toxin boosted erections by triggering the release of nitric oxide, which boosts circulation in the male genitals by helping blood vessel walls relax.”

Treatment derived from the toxin may help patients who fail to respond to erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, which use different pathways, study co-author Kenia Nunes told NBC News.

 

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