A snake's venom is meant to help kill their prey, but scientists are figuring out how to use the deadly toxins to save lives.
The Brazilian pit viper injects its victims with venom - causing them to black out from a drop in blood pressure. The pit viper then swallows them head first. However, the snake's venom is now the source of the drug Captopril, the most commonly prescribed medication for abnormally high blood pressure, and it has been since the early 1980s. It now treats some 40 million people worldwide. The drug opened an entirely new venom-based class of medicine, and the field has only flourished since.
See some of the venomous animals below:
How deadly venom is actually saving lives
A Pit Viper snake is on exhibit at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Monday, Sept. 29, 2008. The Butantan Institute in a biomedical research center specializing in snakes and produces antivenin to save people from snake bites. Antitoxins against spider and scorpion bites are also produced at the institute. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
A pygmy rattlesnake is shown at the Miami Science Museum, Tuesday, June 7, 2011 in Miami. The battle between humans and cold-blooded creatures will be the subject of "Swamp Wars," Animal Planet's series debuting at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday that will focus on Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Venom Response Team. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Â
Mangshan Pit Viper - Venomous Snake
A view of a young Komodo dragon Ivan, one of two males Komodo dragons at the Bioparco zoo in Rome, on May 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS JUNE 26-27 ** A Western Diamondback rattlesnake is "milked" for venom by handler Virgil Pugh, Colwich, Kan., at the Rattlesnake Roundup on Friday, May 7, 2004 in Sharon Springs, Kan. If bitten, the venom from a rattlesnake begins to digest the flesh, causing intense pain and swelling and can be lethal. (AP Photo/Lawrence Journal-World, Thad Allender)
A Poison dark frog (Oophaga lehmanni), is photographed in a laboratory at the zoo in Cali, Colombia, on April 21, 2015. The zoo of Cali, has the largest amphibians laboratory in the country, where they perform studies on the conservation of some amphibian species in danger of extinction. Colombia has the second largest biodiversity in the world. Activists across the globe will celebrate Earth Day on April 22 with events aimed at bringing awareness of environmental concerns. AFP PHOTO/LUIS ROBAYO (Photo credit should read LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
Two other medications derived from the Dusky pygmy rattlesnake and saw-scaled viper were approved by the FDA in the 90s to treat heart conditions.
"For the main types of heart attack [in the United States], there are three drugs and two come from snake venom," the founder of the World Toxin Bank project told CNN.
Since then, seven other venom-based drugs have been approved, ten are in clinical trials, and countless others are in preclinical stages. They are aimed at treating conditions like hypertension, diabetes, chronic pain, and neurological conditions.
Obtaining the venom is far from safe, as the guys Discovery's "Swamp Brothers" learned when they were shown how dangerous it is to "milk a snake." Bryan Fry, a researcher from Australia's University of Queensland has suffered 24 snake bites while obtaining venom.
For more scary creatures, check out the video below on the world's deadliest animals: