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

Altern Med Rev. 2011 Mar;16(1):50-8.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropod Venoms / therapeutic use*
  • Arthropods*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Helminths
  • Humans
  • Insect Bites and Stings
  • Leeches*
  • Scorpions
  • Snails
  • Spiders
  • Tics


  • Arthropod Venoms