The golden head centipedes, also known under the name of Chinese red-headed centipede, are specific to the areas of Asia and Hawaii, and have been study material for multiple researchers in China for quite some time. The reason why scientists were particularly attracted by this species of centipede is that their venom is known to be extremely deadly, killing its prey in a matter of seconds.
The Chinese researchers published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which they tell the story of how they came across the toxin, now known as the Ssm Spooky Toxin, which makes the venom so lethal, and how they found the potential antidote for it. The research of the deadly venom began after it was noticed that golden head centipedes can overpower prey up to 15 times its size.
The team of researchers managed to discover the toxin by individually analyzing each chemical found in the venom, a very meticulous, but, in the end, successful method. They determined that the efficiency of the venom is given by the toxin’s ability to inhibit circulation of potassium in and out of cells, which stops the brain from sending signals to the heart that it should keep beating, thus causing a very quick death. The lack of potassium circulation also leads to breathing problems for the bitten victims, as this movement is essential for the cells located in the airways.
The antidote identified by the Chinese research team is called retigabine and it was proven that it can unblock the potassium movement within the cells. Most commonly used for people suffering from epilepsy, the drug can now also be used for the cases of centipede bites in people. A common occurrence in the emergency rooms in Hawaii (around 400 a year), golden head centipede bites cause severe pain, leaving many people in need of painkillers.