This highly venomous snake could hold a key to fighting the virus that causes COVID-19.
At least that's the hope of these researchers in Brazil, who say they found that a molecule in the venom of the deadly jararacussu pit viper inhibited coronavirus reproduction in monkey cells by 75%, a possible first step toward a drug to combat the disease.
RESEARCH SCIENTIST RAFAEL GUIDO: "It's the first step in a long journey. The process is a very long one."
Professor Rafael Guido of the University of Sao Paulo authored the study.
GUIDO: "We were able to see that the peptides in the venom not only inhibited the development of the virus in vitro, inside the cell, but we were also able to see here in the lab that it was able to inhibit one of the proteins that is very important for the virus's ability to multiply."
Guido said the peptide, or chain of amino acids, can be synthesized in the lab, making the capture or raising of the snakes unnecessary.
But Giuseppe Puorto, who specializes in the study of reptiles and runs the Butantan Institute's biological collection in Sao Paulo, still worries people will go out looking for the deadly viper, one of the largest snakes in Brazil, measuring up to 6 feet long.
PUORTO: "We are afraid that people will go hunting for the jararacussu all over Brazil, thinking it will save the world or themselves, their family. That's not the case. Is this an important discovery? Without a doubt it is. But chasing after the animal is not how this pandemic will be resolved."
A statement from the State University of Sao Paulo said researchers will next evaluate the efficacy of different doses of the molecule and whether it is able to prevent the virus from entering cells in the first place.
They hope to test the substance in human cells soon but did not give a timeline.