The Art and Science of Poisons

The Art and Science of Poisons

Poisons, due to their lethal nature, invoke a sense of fear in humans. Yet, they have also impacted other aspects of human life. Poisons have been used by nomadic hunters to kill their prey, by ...
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Scorpion Venoms

Pp. 55-89 (35)

Olen R. Brown

Abstract

More than 1500 species of scorpions are known and they populate every continent except Antarctica. They abound in dry and desert areas of the world. By most accounts, only about 20 species have venom that can kill a human. Mostly, they live secretive lives preferring underground burrows or crevices in rocks by day and come out at night when they hunt for prey that for different species ranges from insects to rats, mice, lizards and other small animals. Scorpions produce complex venoms composed of many chemicals and they possess the ability to control the amount of venom injected by a sting, and even control the quality of that venom. The most toxic venom for humans appears to be that produced by the death stalker, and there are four chemical components. The earliest effect is on the transmission of nerve impulses which creates paralysis, and a subsequent toxicity to the heart. The most significant nerve toxicity is described as an impairment of calcium movement that blocks transmission of impulses across synaptic junctions to cause paralysis.

Keywords:

Androctonus crassicauda, Antivenom, Autonomic nervous system, biotoxin, Calcium channel, CNS, death stalker, Fat tail scorpion, Leiurus quinquestriatus, Man killer, Myoneural junction, Nervous system, Neurotransmitter, Postsynaptic neuron, Presynaptic neuron, Scorpion, Synapses, Venom, Voltage-gated channels.

Affiliation:

Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center University of Missouri Columbia, MO USA.