If you follow me on social media, then you probably know that I have poked a lot of fun at the recent story about fire ant venom being studied as a possible treatment option for psoriasis. Maybe it is because I hail from the Pacific Northwest, and we don’t have fire ants here, that I find this so odd and shocking. Of course, my brain immediately conjured up images of going into a medical spa-like setting and being submerged into a pool of red creepy insects.
I decided to stop letting the theory be the butt of my jokes and do a little research on this. I was actually surprised to find that this might be legit, guys and gals! It looks to be a bona fide study with some intriguing results. But hold on—don’t go running outside and jump into an ant hill—there is a little more to it than that.
The article, which was published in September 2017, highlights a study in which the toxic compound from fire ant venom, solenopsin (be sure to write that down for the test later), is put into a topical cream and smeared on mice. Side note: I couldn’t find a picture of the cream, but I truly hope it is red. I’m kind of bored with all the white and yellow creams. Am I right?
Moving on…this venomous goop actually reduced plaque thickness by about 30% and reduced immune cells and inflammation. All positive things when we are looking at the needs of the typical psoriasis patient. This is no means being developed as a cure, but it could be another option for patients that either can’t or are uncomfortable with systemic medications or as a tool to combat flares and breakthrough plaques. They also find that it may work even better with phototherapy and some steroids, so it could be a great candidate for combination therapy.
First, I feel obligated to point out that if you are a lover of all creatures, you don’t have to worry about little, innocent fire ants being milked by the masses of their venom. The compound these researchers are working with is a man-made derivative. This is also comforting knowing that if one of my crazy kids licks my arm (this has happened for no apparent reason)-they aren’t going to need to be rushed to the emergency room.
Secondly, we have to keep in mind that the research is still in the very early stages. No human trials have been completed, which means that it could be a long time before we see this treatment available. Clinical trials and government approval would still need to be obtained before it is made available to patients. Still, I think it is a promising study that is worth keeping an eye on. I won’t promise that I won’t tease about the idea from time to time still, but I’m genuinely excited to see that there are so many brilliant minds not leaving any stone unturned in the quest to make living with psoriatic disease more manageable. I just hope that if it does make it to market, it has a catchy name or mascot to pay homage to the fire ant.