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New drug derived from the saliva of TICKS could replace opioids

Research indicates that the compound does not enter the brain which means it is far less likely to be addictive and cause side effects.

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(Photo by Erik Karits from Pexels)

By Joe Morgan via SWNS

A new drug derived from the saliva of TICKS eases itching and chronic pain.

A protein discovered in the brown-ear tick, which spreads parasites that cause East Coast fever in cattle across Africa, has been found to bring pain relief.

The medication is hoped to one day be a replacement for opioids, which can be ineffective, have serious side effects and are extremely addictive.

Researchers discovered the compound, called Votucalis, was able to provide both pain and itch relief in a study involving mice.

The drug was discovered when researchers found the brown-ear tick was able to secrete a powerful protein in its hosts.

They found Votucalis was secreted into the host as they fed so the animal was unaware they had been bitten.

On a chemical level, the protein binds histamine produced in the body, resulting in reduced itching or chronic pain responses.

Unlike opioids, the research shows Votucalis does not enter the brain which means it is far less likely to be addictive and less likely to cause side effects.

Possible treatments for the drug include atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes, sciatica and back injuries.

The researchers say the next step towards clinical testing is to develop a delivery system to effectively administer the drug at the site of itch and pain.

Dr. Paul Chazot, of Durham University, said: “Persistent or chronic pain is a huge global health challenge, which affects over 20 percent of the population.

“It is the single biggest reason that people in the UK visit their doctor and it is recognized as a priority disease by the World Health Organisation.

“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended that current opioid and gabapentinoid pain medications should not be prescribed to patients newly diagnosed with chronic pain, apart from cancer sufferers, so there is an urgent need to develop a new, long-lasting medication that is both effective and safe to use.

“Our study is the first to show evidence of the anti-itch and pain relief potential of Votucalis, which is very exciting.

"We could be on the brink of discovering a viable alternative to opioid and gabapentinoid drugs.”

Psoriasis skin disease is a dermatic problem, red allergic skin rash.
The medical innovation could lead to the replacement of opioids for itching and chronic pain relief (Bee Bonnet/Shutterstock)

Dr. Ilona Obara, at Newcastle University, said: “It is amazing that a protein found in the saliva of this tiny creature could prevent chronic pain and itching in people.

“These are conditions that bring a huge amount of misery, and current medication displays limited efficacy, and can also often be detrimental to patients.

“Votucalis has already been tested in humans with other conditions, including conjunctivitis, without major side-effects, so the potential for this to be developed into a drug to tackle chronic pain and itching is definitely there.”

The research is published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.

Clive Richardson, Chief Executive Officer of Akari Therapeutics Plc, said: “We are delighted to be working with Drs Chazot and Obara on the pipeline drug Votucalis.

"The exciting new data in pain and itch supports the potential that the unique mode of action of Votucalis, inhibiting all four histamine receptors, opens exciting therapeutic opportunities in pain management and dermatology.”

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