Black Mamba: its venom contains an hope for the future

The venom of the black mamba contains, in addition to the deadly neurotoxins, a substance with a powerful analgesic effect

by Lorenzo Ciotti
SHARE
Black Mamba: its venom contains an hope for the future

The black mamba is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. Her poison is a deadly cocktail of neurotoxins. Her bite is known as the kiss of death. Without proper medical treatment, her bite has a 100% mortality rate. It lives preferably in the sub-Saharan savannah, from Somalia to South Africa, and only on rare occasions is it found in the tropical or equatorial forest regions.

In general it tends to avoid environments densely populated by man and this reduces the number of poisonings. According to a study carried out in 2012 by some French researchers, the venom of the black mamba contains, in addition to the deadly neurotoxins, a substance with a powerful analgesic effect.

This substance, once isolated and tested on mice, would seem to have a pain-relieving effect like that of morphine, without however manifesting the common side effects of the latter, such as addiction, convulsions, complications of the respiratory and cardiovascular system.

The substance, called mambalgina and present only in the venom of the black mamba species, is devoid of these side effects as it acts on the organism in a completely different way than that of morphine.

Black Mamba: its venom contains an hope for the future

Despite its common name, this snake is not black: the back has a more or less dark olive color, while the ventral region is light cream.

The name of black mamba derives from the characteristic black color of the inside of the mouth, which the snake makes clearly visible when it opens it wide because it feels threatened. The black mamba's diet is based on warm-blooded animals, namely birds and mammals, although other snakes are not difficult to find in its stomach.

The hunting technique varies according to the prey: when it is small in size, as for most rodents, the mamba bites the animal and holds it with a quick snap, wrapping it until it dies poisoned. The venom of the black mamba consists mainly of neurotoxins and has an LD50 of 0.25 mg / kg.

One bite usually injects 100 mg. The venom of this snake is so lethal because it contains neurotoxins and cardiotoxins, moreover it is less viscous than the venom of other snakes and this speeds up its introduction into the circulatory system and therefore the effects, this low viscosity is also due to the low molecular weight of the dendrotoxins.

He is capable of killing a mouse in less than twenty seconds. The black mamba is commonly called seven steps because the extreme rapidity of the effect of its poison, absolutely lethal, would not allow a man, after the bite, to travel more than seven steps.

Without proper treatment, the lethality rate of one of its bites is 100%. This lethal poison, like that of all members of the elapid family, is neurotoxic, that is, it attacks the nervous system causing paralysis of the vital organs and death, which in the case of the black mamba occurs in about twenty minutes and in some cases after a few minutes.

For an adult man 10 mg of his poison is already lethal, but usually he injects about 100 mg and in exceptional cases even 400 mg. Generally it is a reserved snake that tends to avoid confrontation with man by moving away as soon as it senses the human presence; however, if stepped on, or threatened, or with no way out, it can become aggressive, repeatedly blowing and biting.

Despite this, only rare cases have been reported of specimens with a sense of territoriality so strong as to push them to attack and even chase humans.