Giant Venezuelan tarantulas may be an unlikely source of relief from IBS

Brittany A. Roston - Sep 21, 2020, 2:10pm CDT
Giant Venezuelan tarantulas may be an unlikely source of relief from IBS

A type of massive venomous tarantula found in Venezuela may be an unlikely source of pain relief for the millions of people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), according to a new study out of Australia. Called the Venezuelan Pinkfoot Goliath, this tarantula can have a leg span measuring up to nearly a foot in diameter, putting it among the largest tarantulas in the world.

The Pinkfoot Goliath Tarantula can bite and is venomous, though the venom doesn’t negatively affect most people. In some cases, a person may be allergic to the venom, making it potentially dangerous, but it is generally not a risky creature despite its terrifying size. However, this venom may offer a benefit to humans, at least ones who are suffering from IBS, a condition that can cause pain in addition to issues like gas and cramping.

IBS can be difficult to treat; even in cases where it goes into remission, the patient may experience flare-ups at times. The resulting pain is the worst part in many cases, as with other intestinal disorders, it is difficult to get relief. Opioid painkillers, in addition to their addiction potential, may also cause constipation, making intestinal pain worse. Other non-addictive painkillers may not offer adequate relief or they become too risky to take long term.

This is unfortunate for the many people suffering from intestinal disorders like IBS, as well as certain bladder conditions which also cause gut pain. According to the researchers, voltage-gated ion channels that open and close cause hypersensitivity in the gut that primarily contributes to this type of pain. It is known that spider venom contains peptides that can prevent these voltage-gated ion channels from opening, but thus far none of the hundreds tested could entirely stop the pain.

This led the researchers to look for peptides that could work well for gut pain without disrupting other organs. Tarantula venom produced two promising peptides, one of which was described as ‘potent’ for blocking colon and bladder pain. Other peptides sourced from spider and tarantula venom may also be useful for addressing other types of pain, as well.

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