The Bite That Heals

Scientists are unlocking the medical potential of venom.

Michael decided to go for a swim. He was on vacation with his family in Guerrero, Mexico, and it was hotter than blazes. He grabbed his swimming trunks from where they’d been drying on a chair, slid them on, and jumped into the pool. Instead of cool relief, a burning pain ripped through the back of his thigh. Tearing off his trunks, he leaped naked from the pool, his leg on fire.

Behind him a small, ugly, yellow creature was treading water. He scooped it into a Tupperware container, and the caretaker of the house rushed him to the local Red Cross facility, where doctors immediately identified his attacker: a bark scorpion,Centruroides sculpturatus, one of the most venomous species in North America. The fierce pain from a sting is typically followed by what feels like electric shocks racking the body. Occasionally victims die.

Luckily for Michael (who asked me not to give his full name), the bark scorpion is common in the area, and antivenom was readily available. He had an injection and was released a few hours later. In about 30 hours the pain was gone.

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