The sting of the gymnastics tree is covered with thin needle-like hairs, similar to other nettles
Australia is known for its venomous spiders, snakes and sea creatures, but researchers have now identified “scorpion-like” toxins secreted by a tree that can cause excruciating pain for weeks.
Contact of the second division with the dendrocnide tree, a rainforest nettle known by its indigenous gympie-gympie name, results in a much stronger bite than similar plants found in the US or Europe.
The tree, which has broad ovate or heart-shaped leaves, is found mainly in the rainforest areas of northeastern Queensland, where it is popular among climbers.
A team of Australian scientists say they now better understand why the gymnastics-gymnasium strike haunts those unlucky to clean its leaves.
The victims report an initial shock that “feels like fire at first, then sits for hours in pain that reminds you that the affected body part is caught in a slammed car door,” University of Queensland researchers said Thursday.
In the final, withdrawn stages, simply taking a shower can revive the pain.
Although the gym is covered with fine hairs like needles similar to other nettles, previous testing for common irritants like histamine came out empty.
Irina Vetter, an associate professor at the University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Biosciences, said the research team discovered a new class of neurotoxin miniproteins, which they christened ‘gimpietides’.
“Although they come from a plant, gimpietids are similar to the toxins of spider snails and cones in that they fold into their 3D molecular structures and target the same pain receptors – this no doubt makes the gymnastics tree-a gymnastics a really “poisonous” plant, “she said.
Australia is already notorious for its venomous fauna including snakes, jellyfish box, blue-ringed octopus and funnel spiders, although deaths in humans from bites or stings are rare.
Vetter said the long-term pain caused by the tree can be explained by the gympietids that permanently change the chemical composition of the affected sensory neurons – not because of the fine hairs stuck to the skin.
The scientists hope their research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, will eventually help lead to a better pain relief treatment for people who are stuck.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a shared source.)
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