The Grapevine

Controversial CRISPR Gene-Editing Tool Creates Antidote For Earth's Most Venomous Animal

The controversial gene-editing tool CRISPR, which allows scientists to alter genetic material in the DNA, has just helped achieve another scientific breakthrough. A research team from Australia created the first and only potentially effective antidote for the deadly sting of the Australian box jellyfish.

Box jellyfish is considered the most venomous creature on Earth. It has 60 tentacles, each with millions of microscopic hooks filled with venom. Each box jellyfish has enough amount venom to kill more than 60 people. 

A single sting can cause necrosis of the skin, excruciating pain, cardiac arrest and death within minutes. But the new antidote created by researchers at University of Sydney shows potential to prevent the symptoms of a box jellyfish sting if administered within 15 minutes after contact.

"Our antidote is a medicine that blocks the venom," Greg Neely, an associate professor at the Charles Perkins Center at University of Sydney, said in a statement. "You need to get it onto the site within 15 minutes.”

The antidote is currently available in an injectable form. Neely’s team plans to create a spray or a topical cream for better and faster applications. 

The Use Of CRISPR

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, come from the analysis of how millions of human cells could survive a box jellyfish venom. 

Neely said the gene-editing tool helped them quickly identify how the venom kills human cells and how their antidote works to block the effects of jellyfish sting, such as tissue scarring and pain. 

"It's the first molecular dissection of how this type of venom works, and possible how any venom works," Raymond Lau, lead author of the study from the Charles Perkins Center, said. "I haven't seen a study like this for any other venom."

The box jellyfish is commonly found in the coastal waters in northern Australia and around the Philippines. Known to be extremely dangerous, they can actively swim at a speed of 7.5 kilometres an hour in shallow waters.

To date, the only treatment available for the animal’s deadly sting is dousing the affected area with vinegar for 30 seconds or running hot water for 20 minutes. 

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