Venom: killer but also a potential cure

By Steve Allain, Imperial College London

One of my biggest pet peeves as a herpetologist is the trouble that some people have with distinguishing between a venom and a poison – I thought I’d address this early on as I don’t wish to confuse anyone. There is an easy way to remember which is which, a venom has to be injected and a poison has to be ingested. It is very likely that if you ingested a venom it wouldn’t have any effect on your body due to the same protective properties in the stomach that protect us from pathogens, such as the change in pH.

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Environmental pharmacology: how safe is our chemical jungle?

By Christopher Connolly, University of Dundee

The human population has grown from 1 billion in the 1800’s, to 7 billion in 2012 and is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050. Feeding this burgeoning population, as cheaply as possible, has driven the global industrialisation of agriculture. Now large monocultures replace a diverse natural habitat. In so doing, the natural ecosystem balance has been damaged and we have opted for the easy solution – chemical warfare against pest species.

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