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Albino python terrorizes small Spanish town

Residents in a small Spanish town are watching where they step after a two and a half metre-long albino Burmese python went missing recently.

Albino python terrorizes small Spanish town
Snakes alive: Burmese pythons are one of the five largest snakes in the world and can reach lengths of up to 5.7 metres. Photo: Wikimedia

The snake made its escape from a home in the Catalonian town of Riells i Viabrea eight days ago and is still on the loose.

Local police and volunteers have now launched a snake hunt for the albino Burmese python which weights in at a hefty 10kg, according to Spain's Antenna 3 television station.

Police have also opened judicial proceedings against the animal's owner for negligence.

The serpent's owner allegedly housed the snake in substandard conditions and failed to notice the animal had made a run for it.

The snake is not poisonous but does have a habit of strangling small prey to death, especially at night.

"Locals have no reason to fear because the animal isn't dangerous and because it would have been difficult for the animal to leave the zone (around the house where it left)," local police assured residents.

Anyone who spots a two-metre-long python with burnt orange and yellow spots is advised to contact the authorities.

Burmese pythons are one of the five largest snakes in the world and can reach lengths of up to 5.7 metres.

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CANCER

‘King cobra’s venom could help cure cancer’

Spanish researchers are among a group of scientists who believe the deadly king cobra holds a secret cure to cancer.

'King cobra's venom could help cure cancer'
The venom of King cobras and other poisonous snakes contains proteins such as disintegrins, which act as inhibitors that stop the spread of cancer cells. Photo: Michael Allan Smith

The group's genetic findings have been published in the latest edition of prestigious US publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Their work will be contrasted with that of another team of biologists who have been studying the Burmese python, as a way of determining how king cobras evolved to produce venom.

The primary aim of the cobra genome study is to learn how to use toxins to control overactive receptors common in illnesses like cancer.

"Thanks to evolution, poisonous snakes have developed glands which transform certain genes into toxins, which then turn into venom," explains Juan José Calvete, member of Spain's National Research Council.

"Understanding the mechanism by which a protein is transformed into a toxin could in future allow us to copy the process in the lab.

"We could then modify the procedure so that the toxin cured rather than killed."

The venom of king cobras and other poisonous snakes contains proteins such as disintegrins, which act as inhibitors that stop the spread of cancer cells.

"It's too early to say that the venom can cure cancer, but it can certainly alleviate it," Calvete told Spanish daily El Mundo.

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