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BBSRC Science Snapshots

BBSRC Science Snapshots
Highlights from: 20 years of bioscience

Worms with a nasty but potentially life-saving bite

Image: Adrian Glover and Dan Sykes
Image: Adrian Glover and Dan Sykes

This type of bloodworm feeds by extending four extremely strong hollow jaws (these jaws are some of the strongest animal structures know) into their prey, delivering enough venom to kill their victims.

Bloodworms are a multimillion dollar business on the north-western coasts of the Atlantic ocean. They are dug up and sold as fish bait but if you get bitten you’ll experience the pain of their venomous cocktail.

We know almost nothing about the make-up of bloodworms’ venom but BBSRC-funded researchers at the Natural History Museum have been looking at which toxins colonise different bloodworms’ venom.

The studying of venoms and venomous species not only helps us understand evolutionary relationships but can have far reaching medical implication.

Already there are seven prescription drugs that have been developed from animal venoms, treating serious conditions in humans, including diabetes and hypertension.

For more information visit Dr Ronal Jenner’s website: www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/life-sciences/aquatic-invertebrates

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