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Synthetic venom may relieve AIDS-related pain

Synthetic venom may relieve AIDS-related pain

New research shows that a synthetic form of sea snail venom could ease pain in AIDS and cancer patients who get no relief from morphine or other conventional painkillers. The venom that snails use to immobilize their prey through injection may also have beneficial effects for patients suffering from certain heart problems, strokes, central nervous system disorders, and other ills. The study involved the experimental drug ziconotide, a laboratory-made equivalent of the venom of the Conus magus cone snail, which lives in shallow tropical saltwater. The research involved 111 patients ages 24-85 in the United States, Australia, and the Netherlands. Patients were treated with a small battery-operated pump implanted in their abdomens that delivered either continuous medication or a dummy drug through a catheter into fluid surrounding the spinal cord. Fifty-three percent of ziconotide patients rated their pain relief as moderate to complete, compared with about 18% of the placebo group. The full study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers say the drug could be commercially available by the end of the year.

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