Normally, finding a banana spider (Phoneutria nigriventer) lurking in your bedsheets would be a terrifying event. This deadly arachnid is listed as the most venomous spider in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. But scientists searching for cures to erectile dysfunction now believe the banana spider may have something to offer in the bedroom after all, reports National Geographic.

 

Some of the debilitating effects of banana spider venom include loss of muscle control, breathing problems, paralysis and even death — but it has also been known to cause painful erections in men, which can last for hours and damage the penis permanently. That might not sound like a very enticing consolation for those suffering from erectile dysfunction, but scientists now believe that the potent neurotoxin could be developed into a drug that rivals Viagara.

 

Since Viagara and other similar drugs are only effective in two thirds of men, there is room on the market for an alternative. A recent report in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that a drug derived from banana spider venom was effective in helping elderly rodents overcome erectile dysfunction.

 

"The decrease in erectile function associated with age was partially restored 15 to 20 minutes after injection with PnTx2-6," wrote the study's authors.

 

Since it works using a different pathway than that of Viagara, there is hope that it could close the gap and cure erectile dysfunction for good. That is, assuming it works as well on people as it does on rodents.

 

The Phoneutria nigriventer spider is typically found walking through South American jungles at night. They are unusual in that they don't maintain a lair or spin a web, opting instead to wander the forest floor in search of prey. By day the intimidating arachnids are known to hide out under rocks and fallen logs. They are aptly named "banana spiders" because they are often found in banana crates shipped from Brazil.

 

One alarming incident saw a British pub chef bitten after receiving a crate of bananas from South America. The chef likely saved his own life by snapping a picture of the little culprit to later show doctors. Experts at the Bristol Zoo were then brought in to identify it and suggest an antidote.

 

The spiders only bite humans to defend themselves, though, as their venom is meant for small prey. And since their fangs are designed for penetrating smaller creatures, bites on humans do not always lead to envenomization.