If the hair on your arms stood up from just *reading* about spiders, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that millions of people experience a crazy irrational fear of spiders. While they can certainly be scary, these creepy crawlers may have a solution for a health problem affecting 15 percent of the population: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Often called a brain-gut disorder, IBS is a disease that is thought to be provoked or exacerbated by stress, anxiety or emotional trauma. Those who suffer from IBS experience intense stomach aches, bloating and unpredictable changes in bowel habits. These painful side effects can have a severe impact on one’s life, including the way one eats, travels or even functions on a daily basis.
Because doctors are still unclear as to what causes IBS, there have been no effective treatments — until now. In a recent study published in Nature and led by Dr. Jeremiah Osteen, a physiologist at the University of California San Francisco, it was discovered that toxins carried by the Togo starburst tarantula stimulated the rare sensory nerves responsible for IBS pain. Until recently, scientists were unable to locate these rare nerves and, therefore, struggled to regulate their sensitivity. But by injecting the tarantula toxin into these nerves, Osteen and his team were able to understand exactly how they react to pain, giving them insight on how to effectively treat IBS.
In addition to IBS, the researchers also believe that the tarantula venom may help with treating epilepsy, autism and even Alzheimer’s disease, as their development is associated with the same nerves as IBS. Encouraged by these findings, Osteen and his team plan to continue researching spider venom to identify additional pain mechanisms and treatments.
While we may not be lining up for spider venom injections anytime soon, this promising discovery will hopefully help millions of people one day find relief from IBS, chronic pain and other diseases.
Would you try spider venom for pain relief? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)