If the banana spider listened to music, it would probably be a George Michael fan. The bite of this South American spider is among the world's most dangerous. Phoneutria nigriventer, of its scientific nickname, is admittedly potentially fatal.
But one of the symptoms it brings has also intrigued scientists: an erection so long-lasting it hurts. This phenomenon, called priapism, opens up new possibilities in the field of erectile dysfunction.
A toxin as effective as viagra
While it is hard to imagine why the arachnid would wish to cause such an effect in its prey, scientists have looked at the various toxins that make up its venom. Venoms are generally cocktails of toxins and, here, it is the PnTx2-6 toxin that would seem to cause the impromptu stiffness, according to the team of American and Brazilian researchers. A first study on rats published in 2009 was supplemented a few years later by a second published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2012.
Old rodents, whose age had caused them to lose their old vigour, were injected with the relevant toxin. It only took them 15 to 20 minutes for their virile attributes to come to a salute again. Researchers have found that the toxin causes the release of nitric oxide, which helps relax blood vessels in the genitals.
This then facilitates the blood flow and therefore the erection. Sildenafil citrate, the molecule in viagra also has a vasodilator effect, but this does not work in the same way. In addition, you should know that this drug marketed from 1998 is ineffective on 30% of patients.
A venom not to be taken lightly
Coming back to the banana spider toxin, while some do not want to wait for pharmaceutical application to humans, it is still not advisable to look for the substance at its source, living in South America and on the list of the 10 most venomous in the world. Meaning be careful, lest your rigid organ turn to rigor mortis.
Indeed, even with all precautions taken and even with anti-venom, each bite of the aggressive arachnid takes victims up to a week to recover from symptoms, which can be very serious. These include significant respiratory disorders and violent chills. Not to forget the serious consequences of priapism. It is therefore best not to approach the spider and let it live up to its name... by camouflaging itself in banana bunches.