Poison saves

A snake bite for every joint pain, say scientists

By Biplab Das
Published: Monday 15 February 2010

When  all else fails turn to Ayurveda. This has become the norm among researchers lately. From turmeric for cancer to the fig bark remedy for joint pains, modern medical practitioners have been nodding their heads in approval.

imageThe latest addition to the list is snake venom and it shows promise in rectifying rheumatoid arthritis, said a research team from Kolkata. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease. In this the immune system confuses healthy tissue for foreign substances. As a result the body attacks itself revving up the levels of certain chemicals in blood (acid phosphatase) and urine (hydroxyproline and glucosamine). This leads to swollen joints. Allopathic anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aceclofenac help but they have their side-effects—gastro-intestinal irritation, cardiovascular risk and toxicity in kidneys.

In Ayurveda, needles dipped in cobra venom is injected into patients suffering from pain, inflammation and arthritis—suchika voron. This piqued the interest of researchers compelling them to study the venom’s efficacy.

Antony Gomes and his team divided a group of experimental rats into five. Group I had normal, healthy rats. Arthritis was induced into rats of group II, III and IV. Group II was left untreated, III and IV were treated with cobra venom and V was treated with the allopathic drug Indomethacin for 13 days. After studying the minimum lethal dose (mld) of the venom on the rats, the researchers dosed group III with one-twentieth of mld and group IV with one-tenth the mld. The dose of the drug was one milligramme per kilogramme for 13 days.

“The venom-treated arthritic rats showed significant decrease in swollen paw weight as compared to the untreated arthritic group,” said Gomes who led a joint research team from the Department of Physiology at the University of Calcutta and Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata. Compared to the drug treatment, the venom was equally effective.Venom treatment also decreased the level of the urinary chemicals, said the study that will appear in the February-March 2010 issue of Toxicon.

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