In a pathbreaking achievement that may prove to be a boon for millions of men worldwide, a new treatment for erectile dysfunction – based on the venom of the Brazilian banana spider, passed its first phase of human testing in Brazil.
A synthetic form of the Brazilian banana spider’s venom is a gel that can be directly applied to the users’ genitalia. Passing the first round of testing proves that it is safe for humans to use the gel. However, the gel has to undergo further rounds of trials before it is approved for commercial use.
Exploring Banana Spider Venom
For the unknown, a banana spider is an arachnid that is generally found in South American countries. Also known by the names “wandering spider” or “armed spider”, this spider measures a maximum size of up to 15 centimeters and will be covered in thick brown hair. One of the most venomous in the world, a banana spider is found in rural and urban areas of Minas Gerais, a southeastern Brazilian state.
The banana spider’s bite is well-known for the painful prolonged erections it causes. It was three decades back that the researchers started studying this surprising side effect. According to Marcia Helena Borges, a researcher at FUNED (Ezequiel Dias Foundation), they noticed that the patients who had been bitten by the banana spider showed a characteristic symptom, which was priapism, a condition of painful and prolonged erection.
The molecule triggers the release of the chemical nitric oxide that is essential for erections. It works in such a way that it increases blood circulation and causes the blood vessels to widen.
While commenting on the latest development, Carolina Nunes, a biologist who has been involved in the banana spider venom study for almost two decades said that it has great potential to become an internationally recognized medicine.
Maria Elena de Lima, a UFMG researcher opined that the message from the new discovery was not to destroy animals even if they are poisonous as there is a real library of molecules that are still unknown.
Generally, erectile dysfunction can happen due to psychological or physical problems. In the case of physical issues, drugs such as Viagra or Cialis comes to the aid of the patients by increasing the blood flow to the penis.
Having said that, it is not advisable for everyone to use these medicines as these drugs work in such a way that they relax blood vessels and increase blood flow throughout the human body. Due to this reason, patients who are suffering from low blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, or a history of stroke or a heart attack cannot take these medications.
On the other hand, the banana spider’s venom-based gel targets only the particular area it is applied to. Since it doesn’t affect the rest of the body parts, it is considered to be safe for those 30% of the people who are not able to take the oral treatments available. Apart from men, women were also involved in the first round of testing of the gel and it was found that the medicine was effective and safe to use for them too.
Furthermore, Maria Elena, professor at UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais) says that the new gel could prove effective for men who have removed their prostrate.
According to her, men generally show resistance to undergo radical prostate surgery as it leads to erectile dysfunction, especially in those diagnosed with diseases such as cancer. In such cases, peptides will be active in men whose prostate has been removed.