Venom Cure

Korean yellow-jacket wasp.

Penicillin? I hardly know ‘im! 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger! But the same is true for drug-resistant bacteria, like those that cause pneumonia! How will we defend ourselves?

Enter the Korean yellow-jacket wasp. It carries a potent toxin that causes a painful sting. Yet, Cesar De La Fuente and his team at the University of Pennsylvania noticed its potential.

They tweaked a peptide — like a small protein — contained in the toxin. This renders it harmless to humans, yet still DEADLY to bacteria. To test it out, they exposed mice to different kinds of drug-resistant bacteria. Sick mice were then treated using the new drug made from the toxin.

Success! The mice made full recoveries from their deadly infections!

The doctored wasp formula not only killed nasty bacteria. It also boosted immune response, and kept swelling down! The researchers hope this venom-based treatment can defend against the ever-growing threat of stronger bacteria. 

I guess the enemy of my enemy is… a wasp? Ouch! … and thank you.

Reference: Silva, O. N., Torres, M., Cao, J., Alves, E., Rodrigues, L. V., Resende, J. M., Lião, L. M., Porto, W. F., Fensterseifer, I., Lu, T. K., Franco, O. L., & de la Fuente-Nunez, C. (2020). Repurposing a peptide toxin from wasp venom into antiinfectives with dual antimicrobial and immunomodulatory properties. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(43), 26936–26945.