Tarantulas Relieve Pain in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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  • 20% of the world’s population suffers from chronic pain
  • Chronic abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Researchers have discovered spider venom could potentially help relieve chronic gut pain 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has an estimated global prevalence of 10 to 20%. Altered bowel habits, abdominal pain, and distention are the most common signs and symptoms of the condition. 

All pains are complex, but gut pain is particularly challenging to treat and affects around 20 percent of the world’s population.

Professor Richard Lewis

Effective pain management is a difficult task as most pain medications have side effects that limit the dose that can be administered. Therefore, researchers at the University of Queensland set out to find an effective treatment for gut pain. 

However, they experimented with the strangest of things. Tarantulas. Specifically, the venom of the Venezuelan Pinkfoot Goliath tarantula, one of the largest spiders in the world.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Pain

IBS, along with other gastrointestinal conditions, can cause chronic visceral pain. This occurs as a result of the opening and closing of Voltage-gated ion channels present on internal organs. Studies suggest voltage-gated Sodium and Calcium channels play a key role in the development of chronic pain.

“Our goal was to find more specialized pain blockers that are potent and target pain sodium channels for chronic visceral pain, but not those that are active in the heart and other channels.”

Professor Richard Lewis

Spider Venom Peptides

Spider Venom contains peptides that inhibit voltage-gated ion channels from opening. Thus, potentially relieving pain.

The team of scientists found two novel peptides in spider venom that inhibited voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels. These peptides were then administered in mouse models of IBS.  One of the peptides showed a greater effect on the sensory nerves of the bladder and colon, significantly reducing chronic visceral pain. 

Human clinical trials will help further prove the safety and efficacy of the peptides as effective pain relievers. 

In conclusion, researchers believe the highly selective spider venom peptides can play a key role in the treatment of chronic visceral pain.


Fernanda C Cardoso, Joel Castro, Luke Grundy, Gudrun Schober, Sonia Garcia-Caraballo, Tianjiao Zhao, Volker Herzig, Glenn F King, Stuart M Brierley, Richard J Lewis. A spider-venom peptide with multi-target activity on sodium and calcium channels alleviates chronic visceral pain in a model of irritable bowel syndrome. Pain, 2020; Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002041


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