Researchers in Brazil discovered a molecule in the venom of the jararacussu pit viper, one of the country’s largest snakes, slowed down the reproduction of coronavirus in monkey cells reducing its ability to multiply by 75%.
One of the scientists involved in the research Rafael Guido said: “We were able to show that that component of the snake’s venom was able to inhibit a very important protein of the virus.
“It’s the first step in a long journey... the process is a very long one.
“A component of the venom demonstrated in this study that it has development potential. It’s a long road, we have taken the first steps.”
The jararacussu can grow up to 2m (6ft) long. They can be found in Brazil, the coastal Atlantic Forest, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina.
Mr Guido added scientists are “afraid people will go hunting for the jararacussu all over Brazil, thinking it will save the world or themselves, their family”.
He said: “That’s not the case. Is this an important discovery? Without a doubt it is, but chasing after the animal is not how it will be resolved.
“The component that was discovered is just a fraction from inside the venom, it is not the venom itself that will cure coronavirus at this time.”
Researchers hope the development, published in scientific journal Molecules, will be followed up by tests in human cells but could not say when that would happen.