Mexican scientists isolate antibiotics from scorpion venom

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Scientists from Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM) have discovered that the venom of the Diplocentrus melici scorpion has two compounds capable of fighting antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis and the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium.

Said compounds also act as effective inhibitors of certain types of cancer cells such as the Jurkat (T lymphocyte) cells, TE 671 (human rhabdomyosarcoma) cells, and SH-SYSY (neuroblastoma) cells.

The first compound is called “3,5-dimethoxy-2- (methylthio) cyclohexa-2,5-diene-1,4-dione,” it is red in color and has proven effective in the treatment of Staphylococcus aureus, to bacteria which causes skin infections, sepsis, endocarditis, and pneumonia.

The second is called “5-methoxy-2,3-bis (methylthio) cyclohexa-2,5-diene-1,4-dione,” it is blue in color, and effective against the Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

The experts from the Biotechnology Institute have isolated, produced, and patented both compounds, which have the potential to be used as drugs against tuberculosis, which is considered one of the deadliest diseases in the world.

Treatments for tuberculosis usually last around six months, which is why patients usually interrupt the treatment, generating more resistant strains that take a larger amount of antibiotics to eliminate, extending treatments for up to four years.

However, these new compounds can contribute to solving the problem.

“We have conducted some laboratory work with biological models and the compounds work; now we need to start clinical trials on humans and then look for a pharmaceutical company that may be interested in distributing the product, ” Lourival Possani said in a press release.

Moreover, the team of investigators recently discovered that the scorpion poison changes color when exposed to air, which led them to investigate its properties in the first place.
However, since the amount of venom that can be obtained from a scorpion specimen is quite small, the compounds must be obtained artificially.

Once obtained in crystal form, the compound structure was confirmed by means of diffraction via x-rays at the National Macromolecules Structure Laboratory in the Institue.

Possani Postay has studied the structure of scorpion venom in Mexico and other countries for more than two decades.



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