Bugs as drugs, part two: Worms, leeches, scorpions, snails, ticks, centipedes, and spiders

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


In this second of a two-part series analyzing the evidence for the use of organisms as medicine, the use of a number of different "bugs" (worms, leeches, snails, ticks, centipedes, and spiders) is detailed. Several live organisms are used as treatments: leeches for plastic surgery and osteoarthritis and the helminths Trichuris suis and Necator americanus for inflammatory bowel disease. Leech saliva is the source of a number of anticoagulants, including the antithrombin agent hirudin and its synthetic analogues, which have been approved for human use. Predatory arthropods, such as certain species of snails, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and ticks provide a trove of potential analgesic peptides in their venom. A synthetic analogue of a snail venom peptide, ziconotide, has been approved for human use and is used as an alternative to opioids in severe pain cases. Arthropods, such as ticks, have venom that contains anticoagulants and centipede venom has a protein that corrects abnormalities in lipid metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-58
Number of pages9
JournalAlternative Medicine Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011


  • Arthropod
  • Centipede
  • Helminth
  • Insect
  • Leech
  • Scorpion
  • Snail
  • Spider
  • Tick
  • Worm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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