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Antimicrobial properties found in scorpion venom
The study highlights the potential for other healing compounds to be identified in the toxins of scorpions, snakes, snails and other creatures. (Stock photo)
Compounds kill staph and drug-resistant TB bacteria - study

Scientists have discovered two healing compounds in scorpion venom that can kill staphylococcus and drug-resistant TB bacteria.

The scorpion, Diplocentrus melici (not pictured), is native to eastern Mexico and can only be found in the rainy season - it is buried during the winter and dry seasons. When researchers milked its venom, they noticed they it changed from clear to brownish in colour when exposed to the air.

Two chemical compounds were found to be responsible for the colour change, one of which turned red when exposed to air, the other blue. The compounds are two previously unknown benzoquinones, a class of ring-like molecules known to have antimicrobial properties.

Through much trial and error, the team - which comprised researchers from Stanford and Mexico - managed to synthesise the compounds. The red benzoquinone was particularly effective at killing staphylococcus bacteria, while the blue one was lethal to both normal and multi-drug-resistant strains of TB-causing bacteria.

Researchers said being able to synthesise the venom is highly important, as the amount of venom components that can be obtained from animals is extremely low.

The team are planning to work together in determining why the compounds are present in the venom and whether they can be transformed into drugs. Their findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.