Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Epilepsy Health Center

Font Size

Snail Venom Studied as Source for New Drugs

Toxin's Ingredients May Treat Pain, Brain Diseases
WebMD Health News

Aug. 25, 2004 -- Researchers are plumbing the depths of the seas to develop new drugs for pain relief and brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy.

They're particularly interested in some of the lowliest ocean dwellers: cone snails.

Cone snails are mollusks found mostly in tropical waters. Some feed on fish; others eat mollusks or marine worms.

Cone snails inject their prey with venom to paralyze and eventually kill it. Their venom has even killed more than 30 people, including several who lived long enough to tell their tales.

The human venom victims reportedly didn't feel any pain. Autopsies showed that their internal organs weren't damaged.

That prompted scientists to take a look at cone snail venom. If its painkilling properties could be tapped, the toxin could yield new drugs.

Cone snail venom consists of a mixture of proteins. Each targets a specific nerve or vital body function.

Bruce Livett, associate biochemistry and molecular biology professor at Australia's University of Melbourne, is one of the researchers working on cone snail venom.

In a news release, he predicts that "in the near future," cone snail venom or its derivatives could supplement or even replace morphine in pain management.

Cone snail venom is also being investigated for possible treatments for brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy, says Livett, who recently led a review of studies on cone snail venom published since 1999.

More than 200 patents had already been filed, according to the review, which was published in Current Medicinal Chemistry.

"The potential for drug development is high and the potential benefits are great," providing that the drugs can be effectively delivered to the body, write the researchers.

Livett and his colleagues have signed a license with Metabolic Pharmaceuticals in Melbourne to develop a compound called ACV1, which is based on cone snail venom.

In animal experiments, ACV1 prevented pain and appeared "to accelerate the rate of recovery from a nerve injury," says Livett in a news release.

ACV1 will be developed for use in treating nerve pain associated with diseases such as diabetes and shingles, according to the news release.

Today on WebMD

human head and brain waves
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Grand mal seizure
How is each one different?
marijuana plant
CBD, a plant chemical, may cut down seizures.
prescription bottle
Which medication is right for you?
Seizures Driving
Questions for Doctor Epilepsy
Graces Magic Diet
Pills spilling from bottle in front of clock
first aid kit
Caring Child Epilepsy
Making Home Safe
epilepsy monitoring