New Study Finds Centipedes Can Kill Prey 15x Their Size With Deadly 'Spooky Toxin' Venom
The venom, known as SsTx "Spooky toxin," works by disrupting potassium channels in the body to exert its deathly effects. "The study indicates that centipedes' venom has evolved to simultaneously disrupt cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, and nervous systems by targeting the broadly distributed KCNQ channels, thus providing a therapeutic strategy for centipede envenomation," it reads.
These envenomations occur more frequently than we might think- in Hawaii, centipede bites were responsible for 11 percent of emergency room visits from 2007 to 2011. Patients admitted following centipede envenomations were found with symptoms including intense spasms, acute hypertension, myocardial ischemia, and even death.
These symptoms suggest that the venom creates cardiovascular disorders, and scientists say that ion channels, proteins found in a cell's membrane, are the likely targets. Testing centipede venom against various ion channels, they found that the SsTx venom has a particularly devastating effect on the KCNQ family of potassium ion channels. "KCNQ is a family of multifunctional K+ channels that are involved in a diverse array of physiological functions, such as cardiac action potential repolarization, coronary circulation and reactive hyperemia, and cerebral neuron excitation," the study says. "KCNQ channels are also found in airway smooth muscle cells from rodent and human bronchioles."
In other words, centipede venom can cause you to suffocate to death.
In a reminder of how long insects have been ruling this planet, scientists recently found a tick preserved in amber that sucked dinosaur blood. They must be important, as Harvard has created a robotic bee that swims and flies with the hopes that it provides us with unparalleled research into animal habitats. We're fine with this study, just so long as it helps scientists keep centipedes far, far away from us.