Most of the symptoms from a Brazilian Wandering Spider bite don’t sound all that pleasant. Difficulty breathing, drooling, tremors and more are experienced by the unlucky few who have suffered this arachnid’s wrath. But there is one side effect that has interest to men and to medicine. Many male victims have reported a rigid, painful erection lasting for hours afterward.
Due to this discovery, researchers worldwide are in a race to isolate the compound within the spider’s venom that causes such an erection, PnTx2-6. Researchers believe they can create from it an erectile dysfunction drug that will become active in as little as 20 minutes. The venom causes a condition called priapism, resulting in an erection lasting longer than four hours. Not only does it hurt, scar tissue can build up in the organ, causing damage. To discover how the element in the toxin works, researchers at the University of Wisconsin removed the penis of a dead laboratory mouse and hooked it up to an electrical device.
When the compound was placed inside, the device measured the reaction of the muscles within the organ. They contracted very much as they would when any ED medication was introduced. The spider’s venom is a mix of many different compounds. Each causes a different side effect. Other laboratory tests on rats have shown that the toxin increases the amount of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. ED drugs do the same thing. Nitric oxide makes blood vessels smooth themselves out, allowing for better blood flow. Due to this, the penis can become engorged with blood, causing an erection.
Researchers have now created a PnTx2-6 gene, which when injected into a caterpillar, created this selfsame element in the spider’s toxin. An artificial version showed Viagra-like results in studies on laboratory rats. This research will be helpful those men who don’t respond to other ED drugs (30% of those prescribed them). Today these men are generally directed toward penis pumps or injections administered directly into the penis. But soon, they may have a better and fast-acting alternative, thanks to science and a fearsome Amazonian arachnid.