Jellyfish medical findings

Study removes bottleneck in jellyfish venom research

The box jellyfish that Prof. Fry and colleagues studied is called Chironex fleckeri. According to the National Science Foundation, this species of box jellyfish is the world’s most venomous animal – it can kill a person in under 3 minutes, a world record. On average, one person a year dies in Australia after suffering a sting from this creature.

Yet, despite the supreme deadliness of the free-swimming marine animals, more papers are published about snake venom in 1 year than have ever been published about jellyfish venom, says Prof. Fry, who suggests the main reason is a lack of venom supply.

He says the venom-extraction method that he and his colleagues have developed is practical and highly efficient, and it promises to remove a major bottleneck in the field of jellyfish venom research.

Other attempts to extract venom from jellyfish either take several weeks or have only managed to extract tiny amounts, says Prof. Fry. Plus, he adds, they also contaminate the venom with mucus or other unwanted material.

Their method, which they describe in their paper, uses ethanol to cause the venom cells – called nematocysts – in the jellyfish’s tentacles to fire. As soon as the cells begin firing, the researchers can collect the venom – in what is effectively a “one-step” process.

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