Priapism Is A Bug, Not A Feature
I was all set to learn details about a newly discovered spermicide in the venom of Chile's black widow spider, and all I got was a marketing pitch, and confusion about what's desirable in a contraceptive. [For the record, priapism and involuntary ejaculation aren't selling features for a spermicide.]
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered a potentially marketable contraceptive in the venom of Chile's black widow spider, whose bite is fatal to many but can also cause prolonged, painful and involuntary erections in men.
The venom of the Latrodectus mactans, a variety of black widow found only in the south of Chile, has spermicidal properties not found in black widows in other regions of the world, Chilean Dr Fernando Romero said.
Romero heads a research team that has studied the spider's venom for seven years, prompted by tales of Chilean farmers who acquired superhuman virility after being bitten by the black widow.
Initial studies focused on taking extracts from the venom to treat erectile dysfunction, but they soon discovered it had a molecule that also made it an effective contraceptive.
He said he believes the molecule's natural properties are superior to those of synthetic spermicides currently on the market.
Romero, based at the Universidad de la Frontera in the southern city of Temuco, has already applied for a patent for his erectile dysfunction medicine.
His team discovered the property after looking into Chilean folklore that describes a virile man, one known to have spectacular sexual energy or many sexual partners, as being "spider-bitten."
Romero said he was confident his research would be complete in a couple of years and the spermicide would become available to world markets.
"We have to make sure there are no side effects ... so that it can be used as a gel in combination with condoms, or as suppositories for women."