Arachnid toxinology in Australia: clinical toxicology to potential applications

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Journal Article
Toxicon, 2006, 48 (7), pp. 872 - 898
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The unique geographical isolation of Australia has resulted i the evolution of a distinctive range of Australian arachnid fauna. Through the pioneering work of a number of Asurtalian arachnologists and clinicians, the taxonomy and distribution of new species, the effective clinical treatment of envenomation, and the isolation and characterisation of the many distinctive neurotoxins, has been achieved. In particular, work has focussed on several Australian arachnids, including red-back and funnel-web spiders, paraysis ticks and buthid scorpions that contain nerotoxins capable of causing deht or serious systemic envenomation. In the case of spiders, species-specific antivenoms have been developed to treat envenomed patients that show considerable cross-reactivity. Both in-vitro and clinical case studies have shown they are particularly efficious in the treatment of envenomation by spiders even from unrelated families. Despite their notorious reputation, the high selectivity and potency of a unique range of toxins fromt he venom of Asutralian arachnids will make them invaluable molecular toold for studies of neurotransmitter release and vesicle exocytosis as well a sion channel structure and function. The venoms of funnel-web spiders and more recently Australian scorpions, have also provided a previously untapped rich source of insect-selective neurotoxins for the future development of biopeptides and the characterisation of previously unvalidated insecticide targets
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