Venomous animals tend to get a bad rap. Sure, this could be partly deserved since the venom from some of these species can kill humans in a matter of minutes. But the same qualities that can make venom dangerous can also be powerful for science and medicine. Take a look at these venomous animals that just might save your life one day. (Of course, this is under special medical care. If you come across these animals on your own, then definitely turn — or run — the other way.)
The poison of a cone snail, Conus textile, is responsible for several human deaths. (Photo: Harry Rose/flickr)
You might not think of snails as being venomous — and don't worry, most aren't — but cone snails are some of the most toxic animals in the world. Cone snails have a small range in the reefs of the Indo-Pacific area. Anyone who gets stung by one of these snails likely has only a few minutes to live. The venom this 4- to 6-inch creature can produce is said to be hundreds of times more powerful than morphine. Scientists are still trying to figure out the best ways to harness it.
Snake venom is probably the most understood and is used to treat heart attacks, blood disorders, high blood pressure, minor heart attacks, blood clots, brain injuries and more. The history of using snake venom in medicinal ways can be traced back thousands of years to when Indian and Chinese cultures used cobra venom. Then in the 1960s, Hugh Alistair Reid made a breakthrough. He was a doctor in Malaya when he discovered that the venom from Malayan pit vipers could help with blood clotting. This eureka moment led to many more discoveries by others.
Researchers are currently studying how venom from several different animals could help with the treatment and cure of cancer, and scorpion venom is key to that work. The toxins are believed to help shrink tumors and slow their growth. While scientists test the toxic effects of the venom on cancer cells, there's hope for what they might learn next.
It's hard to convince an anti-spider person to embrace these eight-legged crawlers, but they deserve some props. Spider venom has been proven to fight pain, cancer, muscular dystrophy and other diseases. The black widow has some of the most beneficial venom, but other spiders with beneficial venom include the brown recluse, parson spider and the sac spider. Recent research found that venom from Australia's deadly funnel-web spider could stop brain damage from stroke. Even if you can’t learn to love spiders, you can at least appreciate them from a distance.
Most people don't realize that a bee sting is a form of venom, but it is. No one likes to get stung by a bee, but evidence shows that it can help you in the long run because it can build up a natural immunity to future stings. (This isn't the case for those who are allergic to bee stings; for that group, the stings can be deadly.) Bee venom therapy (BVT) is also catching on in popularity and being used to treat a variety of diseases and ailments, including arthritis, Lyme disease, eczema, asthma, tumors and more.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated with new information