The black mamba snake is a very fast and dangerous snake that can strike before you ever know what hit you. Its venom can be deadly, but scientists have found it also has a surprisingly beneficial painkiller in it, which might turn out to be a new miracle drug.
The researchers looked at venom from 50 species before they found the black mamba's pain-killing proteins - called mambalgins.
Dr Eric Lingueglia, from the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology near Nice, told the BBC: "When it was tested in mice, the analgesia was as strong as morphine, but you don't have most of the side-effects."
Morphine acts on the opioid pathway in the brain. It can cut pain, but it is also addictive and causes headaches, difficulty thinking, vomiting and muscle twitching. The researchers say mambalgins tackle pain through a completely different route, which should produce few side-effects.
He said the way pain worked was very similar in mice and people, so he hoped to develop painkillers that could be used in the clinic. Tests on human cells in the laboratory have also showed the mambalgins have similar chemical effects in people.