According to researchers, the secret to the world's next generation of pain killing drugs may be hidden in poisonous sea snails found off Australia's coastline.
Professor David Adams, director of the Health Innovations Research Institute at Melbourne's RMIT, briefed that the snails contain a cocktail of powerful agents, called peptides, in their venom, which can be used to treat pain in humans.
Researchers are trying to isolate those agents in a bid to develop a less problematic alternative to morphine.
"In some of the old medical reports where people have been stung by these cone snails, they don't feel pain, most of them die because of respiratory paralysis," News.com.au quoted Adams as saying.
He added: "In a way nature has done a lot of the work, these peptides are designed to target receptors in pain pathways. Our job is just to find them and put them to use.
"The problem with morphine is people can develop tolerance to it, it becomes ineffective, or they become addicted to it. With these peptides, you don't have that problem."
Adams believes a venom-based painkiller could be as close as five years away.
Adams made his presentation at the joint conference of the Australian Neuroscience Society and Australian Physiological Society, held in Sydney this week.