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Venom From the Banana Spider Could Be the New Viagra

Shortness of breath, excessive salivation, tremors, and an intensely painful erection are all indications of being bitten by a highly venomous arachnid commonly known as the banana spider. So toxic is Phoneutria nigriventer, an aggressive member of the Ctenidae family of wandering spiders, that its bite has been known to kill people. The spider is...

Shortness of breath, excessive salivation, tremors, and an intensely painful erection are all indications of being bitten by a highly venomous arachnid commonly known as the banana spider.

So toxic is Phoneutria nigriventer, an aggressive member of the Ctenidae family of wandering spiders, that its bite has been known to kill people.

The spider is a native of the rain forests of central and South America, but it has been seen scurrying out of crates of bananas shipped to other parts of the world. (Killer spider found in family’s supermarket shopping)

The observation that the banana spider’s bite causes priapism, prolonged erections that can damage the penis permanently, got researchers to wonder if its potent venom could be the basis of an alternate treatment for erectile dysfunction, or ED, as television commercials for Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis politely put it. About one in three men seeking a virility lift is not helped by these ED drugs currently on the market.

Spider Venom Boosts Erections in Elderly Male Rats

Brazilian and American scientists report in the current issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine that the toxin from the Brazilian wandering spider may help treat ED in humans, if tests on elderly rodents with erectile dysfunction are anything to go by.

“Researchers from Brazil and the U.S. extracted the toxin, called PnTx2-6, from the deadly venom and injected it into rats which had age-related erectile dysfunction,” reports the UK news site MailOnline. “They found the toxin boosted erections by triggering the release of nitric oxide, which boosts circulation in the male genitals by helping blood vessel walls relax.”

Treatment derived from the toxin may help patients who fail to respond to erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, which use different pathways, study co-author Kenia Nunes told NBC News.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Meet the Author

David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn