If you were suffering from erectile dysfunction, would you take a pill made from the venom of a deadly spider? One team of Brazilian and American researchers are betting that you would.
The estimated number of men who suffer from erectile dysfunction at one point in their lives ranges from 18 million to 30 million in the United States alone. Drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra help many in that department, but as many as 30 percent report that the drugs either do not help or come with bothersome side effects. The only options that remain for that 30 percent are injections directly into the penis or a pump that manually increases blood flow. For obvious reasons, neither option is particularly popular.
Enter the Brazilian Wandering Spider. Nicknamed the Banana Spider for its propensity to hide in shipments of bananas, the spider has killed more people than any other spider. Its venom tends to kill people within an hour of being bitten. Brazilian researchers have become interested in other properties of the venom because people, who had been bitten by the spider and lived, reported boosts to their sex lives.
In a study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers extracted the toxin called PnTx2-6 and injected it into elderly rats. According to the abstract of the study written by Kenia P. Nunes and her colleagues, "Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity in aged and young cavernosal tissue was increased by incubation with PnTx2-6." Nitric oxide increases circulation in the male genitals by helping muscle walls relax. The effect could be seen in as little as 20 minutes.
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by any number of factors, including psychology, health conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, medications taken to alleviate conditions such as depression, and even smoking. In most cases, it is caused to some degree by a lack of blood flow.