Snail Venom Compound Could Replace Opioids as Pain Reliever

Snail Venom Compound Could Replace Opioids as Pain Reliever

By Staff

A small snail with powerful venom may hold a key to future alternatives to opioid pain medication.

The study published in the February 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined a drug made by Seattle-based startup Kineta, using the venom from a Caribbean sea snail.

Scientists at the University of Utah have found a compound that blocks pain by targeting a pathway not associated with opioids.

“Nature has evolved molecules that are extremely sophisticated and can have unexpected applications,” begins Baldomera Olivera, Ph.D., professor in biology at the University of Utah. “We were interested in using venoms to understand different pathways in the nervous system.”

Conus regius, a small marine cone snail common to the Caribbean Sea, packs a venomous punch, capable of paralyzing and killing its prey.

In this study, the researchers found that a compound isolated from snail’s venom, Rg1A, acts on a pain pathway distinct from that targeted by opioid drugs. Using rodent models, the scientists showed that “?9?10” nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) functions as a pain pathway receptor and that RgIA4 is an effective compound to block this receptor. The pathway adds to a small number of non-opioid-based pathways that could be further developed to treat chronic pain.

The compound works its way through the body in 4 hours, but the scientists found the beneficial effects were maintained for longer periods of time.

“We found that the compound was still working 72 hours after the injection, still preventing pain,” said J. Michael McIntosh, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah Health Sciences. The duration of the outcome may suggest that the snail compound has a restorative effect on some components of the nervous system.

“What is particularly exciting about these results is the aspect of prevention,” said McIntosh. “Once chronic pain has developed, it is difficult to treat. This compound offers a potential new pathway to prevent pain from developing in the first place and offer a new therapy to patients who have run out of options.”

The researchers will continue to the next step of pre-clinical testing to investigate the safety and effectiveness of a new drug therapy.

Most pain medications available today work through a limited number of pathways and are not sufficient to alleviate chronic pain. “RgIA4 works by an entirely new pathway, which opens the door for new opportunities to treat pain,” said McIntosh. “We feel that drugs that work by this pathway may reduce burden of opioid use.”

Featured photo credit: My Huynh

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I am sure medical science will continue to find “better” methods and chemical compounds to help the human race with the many different health conditions that are already known. It is also known that opioid medication can, and does make life for we non cancer chronic pain patients a little better, easier, fuller. Approximately 10 million Americans (as per the CDC) have some level of sufficiently treatable, non cancer chronic pain. Because not all good people are responsible with life, in general, is a good enough reason to make the chronic pain folks suffer…….more. Life is not difficult enough without severe, continuous, uncontrolled pain. There is not much science in this my “2 cents worth”. We chronic pain patients understand that if less opioid medication is prescribed, the less chance it will find its’ way to the irresponsible person. All of you folks that do not have to deal with chronic pain personally, or have a loved one being tortured daily, count your blessings. Because if we ALL had to deal with chronic pain, I am sure that there would not be ANY committees or studies even happening on the use of opioid medication for chronic pain. Unless it was to improve on…….what we know, already works.

Tim Mason
Venom-based cures aren’t a new idea. They show up, for example, in Sanskrit texts from the second century A.D., and around 67 B.C. Mithradates VI of Pontus, an enemy of Rome who dabbled in toxicology, was supposedly saved twice on the battlefield by shamans who administered steppe viper venom to his wounds. (Crystallized venom from the snakes is now a medical export from Azerbaijan.) Cobra venom, applied for centuries in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, was introduced to the West in the 1830s as a homeopathic pain remedy. John Henry Clarke’s Materia Medica, published around 1900, describes the venom as alleviating many ills, even those caused by venom. “We should always endeavour to use the same drug to cure as produced the symptoms,” the author wrote. Clinical applications of carefully diluted cobra venom included “Angina pectoris. Asthma. Dysmenia. Hay-fever. Headache. Heart, affections of. Oesophagus, spasmodic stricture of. Ovaries, affections of. Plague … Throat, sore.” But be careful, it was noted: “The curative dose [is] just within the limit of the pathogenetic dose.” Walking such a fine line, physicians of old likely hastened patients’ deaths as often as—or more often than—they prolonged their lives.
Witchcraft will soon be returning…

Jean Price

Thanks, Geoff! The information you offered is appreciated!

This study was reported Feb, 20 2017. The company is Kineta and can be contacted via web or phone at the following URL:

Kahty C

They have been peddling this “Snail Research” for well over a decade giving false hope to Pain Patients. This is getting tedious. This will go Viral again, Hey why not. The Medical Industry is creating a whole new generation of desperate people. This stuff is nowhere near Human trials. See rats don’t talk, so they really don;t make good test subjects. The people running this Site are pretty non Scientific. There is a movement afoot to deny that Pain even Exists. There are even less Resources for information that there were 10 years ago. The “Science” has been undermined by Corporate Interests, it look like we are doomed. Physicians are no better at diagnosing pain than they were 20 Years ago. The Medical Industry found that their mistakes were not worth looking into, it is not profitable. Thye aren’t even treating the Dying anymore.

Jean Price

The February 20 issue! I’m assuming they mean 2000…and if that is so, where is this research sitting NOW, some seventeen years later!? Without funding, perhaps?! Or has it been found too expensive to produce or reproduce!? Or has it been trashed altogether…for any number of other reasons?! When I see a potential medication or treatment for helping decrease pain…I can’t help but turn to thinking the CDC would better serve the public to fund new areas of treatment for pain…instead of blocking the only ones proven to help so many!! And also they could spend all the money wasted on their deceitful and unfounded anti-opioid campaign on research for pain!! Their efforts to date have already worked way too well! They don’t to pay for more, thats certain!! All chemical compounds are virtually “poisons” which when used in specific and limited amounts, achieve a desired effect…and are then referred to as “medications”!!. Strange how that works, isn’t it?! All must be treated with the respect they deserve since they all can also cause harm. Even ” all natural” products should be viewed this way…because, like this snail venom…many totally natural products or chemicals are potent poisons which can damage and even kill! Most medications in the PDR have the mechanism of action listed as “unknown”!! It’s interesting to me that we now have the technology to study specific methods or mechanisms of actions for some medications…and I think this could potentially lead to more targeted effects for the patients taking them…and more helpful medicines with fewer side effects to hamper those using them! For those with pain, LACKING helpful meditations that are ALLOWED NOW…(yet really any medical problem), this is so important! And so needed! This would be no small achievement! And benefit so many! IF the research is ACTUALLY CARRIED OUT!! So, as forbidding and nasty as snail venom seems to me…and even though I wonder if many could react to this in harmful ways…most of us would try almost anything to alleviate or reduce the pain that so controls our lives! Yet, where is the push to further this search for a new medication to help? Sitting on a shelf somewhere without funding? Or just forgotten because other disease seem more devastating than pain? Or other medications are more profitable to research and market?! I really haven’t seen a lot of diseases more destructive than pain, either personally or professionally during my previous years in nursing! Even fatal diseases are at least a release from the struggle of the damage they do…and when you live for decades in persistent, daily physical pain…that can seem like a bargain on some days!! Although in reality, I do think most of us desperately seek LIFE rather than death…it’s just more difficult WITH PAIN…AND without the appropriate care these days. I WISH THE STAFF HERE WOULD do a search to find out WHERE this particular research is now…that would be good to know! Otherwise it seems like a flash in the… Read more »


Wonder if it works on or related to han canabanoid receptors like pot.

Matthew J. Smith

While I am excited to see ANYONE making efforts to find new ways to treat pain, I must temper my enthusiasm with the knowledge that it will be some time before this makes its way through all the testing, and clinical trials, finally making it to market. Then we have to see what side effects it may come with, and (sadly) how much such a new patented drug will cost. But, it still gives me hope !

Deborah Babcock

Have they taken into consideration that snails melt and die if salt is on them..our bodies contain salt. This is absurd to even think about..


This holds promise a decade or more down the road. In the meantime we need to be allowed to utilize opiates which have a proven record of pain relief!

Will it help
Facial Anesthesia Dolorosa? I need help so badly !


Is this snail Medicine already in the market? I suffer from chronic sciatica pain.

Mary Ellen Faysal

I remember years ago reading up on this research. It was presented to me by Dr. Daniel Carr who was with Tufts New England Medical Hospital at the time. He was in charge of the pain clinic there, but has left to do research. I know there were some side effects that concerned me at the time when I read up on this. One being memory loss which concerned me, among others I can’t think of right now. It was only to be part of the study and I declined at that time because of domestic of those effects on the body.