Description of scorpion Tityus trivittatus. Other scorpions of the genus Tityus. The poison of the scorpions, what type of poison does it have? Effects of the bite. Pharmacological application of scorpion venom.
One of the most feared arachnids is the scorpion Tityus trivittatus, of the Buthidae family, which inhabits the tropical and temperate regions of South America, and more frequently in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
Description of scorpion Tityus trivittatus
The species has a length of about 65 mm, with two long, strong and fine palps or pincers, with inner teeth on the edge, reddish-yellowish in color with three dark bands that extend along the body.
Its tail is thin. It is a nocturnal hunter, spending the day hiding in cracks in the floor or walls or in dark areas. It is a solitary species.
It feeds on small vertebrates or invertebrates that it paralyzes with its poison or traps with its palps.
The reproduction of the species occurs sexually or by parthenogenesis (that is, without the need for the eggs to be fertilized by a male).
The eggs develop for several months in an oviduct inside the mother until they hatch.
Other scorpions of the genus Tityus
There are between 1,500 to 1,800 species of scorpions registered in the world, assigned to various genera, all of them poisonous.
One of them is the genus Tityus, which includes at least 190 species that live in South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The species differ from each other in their habitats or in some small morphological characteristic that makes them unique.
Of all the scorpions, some 25 to 30 species belonging to seven genera are considered potentially dangerous for humans.
Some are very lethal, such as those of the genus Andronoctus, with a thick tail, particularly deadly and known, as its name indicates, as a man-killer, and also some belonging to the genus Tityus.
Other than T. trivittatusspecies, additional species belonging to the Tityus genus can be found in South America, such as T. serrulatus, known as the Brazilian yellow scorpion, or T. falconensis or T. barquisimetanus, common in Venezuela, or T. pachyuros, present in Colombia.
The poison of scorpions
The venom of scorpions is locked in a valve located in the final stretch or section of the animal’s tail.
The scorpion uses its venom to paralyze and trap its prey and as a defense mechanism against his enemies. The potency of scorpion venom depends on the species being referred to.
But in general, scorpion venom is a powerful neurotoxin, made up of a mixture of water, salts, small molecules, peptides, and proteins.
The element responsible for the effectiveness of the poison resides in a series of peptide toxins that correspond to a group of between 23 and 78 amino acids.
A group of researchers isolated 200 peptide toxins from a selection of 30 species of venomous scorpions.
They concluded that there are two types of poisons, according to their effects on the body — neurotoxic poisons that affect the neuromuscular junctions and are capable of blocking the main ionic channels (sodium, potassium-chlorine and calcium) of the cells, and cytotoxic poisons that cause tissue necrosis.
What kind of poison does the scorpion Tityus Trivitattus have?
The venom carried by scorpions of the genus Tityus is of the neurotoxic type, which produces alterations in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
The scorpion’s stinging apparatus consists of a pair of glands located at the base of the last segment of the tail, or telson, where a kind of bulb is found and ends in a hollow, curved and sharp stinger.
When the scorpion attacks, it raises its tail over the body, tilting it forward, forming an arc, to expel the poison through the stinger, doing so by contracting the muscles that surround the glands that store the poison.
Why do scorpions sting multiple times?
It has been discovered that the venom injected by a scorpion is not always the same.
The first time the scorpion stings, it secretes a poison known as prevenom, which is transparent and relatively less toxic. It does so to paralyze its small prey or to warn of its danger and scare away the predator.
But when it stings again, and in successive stings, it injects a poison with a viscous, opaque, milky and much more toxic appearance, which it uses to face greater dangers.
What is not known is how the scorpion discriminates risk and administers the two types of venom.
The effects of scorpion Tityus trivittatus stings
Scorpion venom is very dangerous to people, but it is usually lethal to children under the age of five or to the elderly, who lack a strong immune system.
And it is also complicated in the case of people who suffer from certain diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.
People stung by a scorpion experience intense pain, heavy sweating, and redness in the area affected by the bite, which gradually swells.
They then feel cramps and the muscles responsible for breathing begin to become paralyzed.
The symptoms and severity of the clinical picture depend on the power of the poison, the species of scorpion that stung, and even the situation experienced by the scorpion itself: the poison is less powerful or concentrated depending on whether the scorpion had just finished eating or hunting, or whether or not it was its first injection of poison.
Depending on the circumstances of the immune resistance to the bite, the speed and efficiency of care, and the use of the correct antidote, people can recover.
But others may have a heart attack, or severe kidney failure, or a stroke (cerebral infarction or CVA or thrombosis, affecting the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain), or peripheral vascular disease.
An amazing application of scorpion venom
Scorpion venom can be used to develop drugs with antitumor properties and capable of reinforcing the immune system.
But its most surprising application is related to its action on the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a protective barrier between the blood vessels of the brain and the cellular tissues.
This barrier allows blood to flow freely to the brain, but prevents contact with brain cells of most of the substances that go in the bloodstream.
The function of the BBB is to protect the brain from foreign substances, which can be harmful to the brain.
The problem is that among these substances are drugs used in the treatment of patients with brain tumors and people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
The BBB is made up of endothelial cells that line the blood vessels in the brain, are tightly bound together, and prevent foreign molecules from entering the brain, where drugs travel.
They allow water, ions, ethanol to pass through, but not some molecules such as proteins (the basis of many drugs are proteins). Well, what does that have to do with scorpion venom?
Scorpion venom is composed of neurotoxins that are capable of crossing the BBB and altering the cells of the central nervous system.
Researchers have replicated the chemical structure of the neurotoxins contained in scorpion venom to introduce drugs to the brain, scoring a “goal” that can be very beneficial for the treatment of patients with brain tumors and neurodegenerative diseases.
- Eze C.O., Ohvekwe F., Ekenze O. (2014). Stroke as a rare consequence of scorpion sting and scorpion. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health. Vol. 7 (4), 202-205. Source
- González-Sponga, M.A. (1996). Guía para identificar escorpiones de Venezuela. Caracas: Cuadernos Lagoven. Source
- Naukas (2011). El veneno de los escorpiones. Entomoblog, 25.11. 2011. Source
Dr. Rafael Cartay is a Venezuelan economist, historian, and writer best known for his extensive work in gastronomy, and has received the National Nutrition Award, Gourmand World Cookbook Award, Best Kitchen Dictionary, and The Great Gold Fork. He began his research on the Amazon in 2014 and lived in Iquitos during 2015, where he wrote The Peruvian Amazon Table (2016), the Dictionary of Food and Cuisine of the Amazon Basin (2020), and the online portal delAmazonas.com, of which he is co-founder and main writer. Books by Rafael Cartay can be found on Amazon.com
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