Development of a human cardiac myocyte assay for the production of lethal dose response curves for box jellyfish venoms: Can heat and intralipids be used as a treatment for cubozoan envenomings?

An investigation into possible treatment options for jellyfish stings by testing jellyfish venoms on human heart cells to determine the relationship between the concentration of jellyfish venoms to death rate of the cells.


Project Summary

The problem of box jellyfish stings is an issue of medical and commercial importance to tropical Australia, notably in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian coastal communities, threatening the perception of Australia as a safe destination. For example, approximately 160 people from Queensland resorts, including many international visitors, were hospitalized following envenoming during the summer of 2001-02 closing much of the frequented north Queensland coastline.
Fatalities from Irukandji and Chironex box jellyfish stings and the loss of tourism to affected areas present both a medical and economic challenge. Although cubozoan envenoming in Australia may be seen as a minor "medical" concern (compared to other tropical diseases), it represents a major cost to northern Australian communities in terms of public health, leisure and tourism
We aim to
i) produce dose response curves for various concentrations of cubozoan venoms (namely Chironex fleckeri and the irukandji jellyfish, Carukia barnesi) on human cardiac myocytes.
ii) to determine the lipid solubility of Chironex and Irukandji venom in ILE and its effectiveness in decreasing the lethality of these venoms in human cardiac myocytes assays.
iii) to test the hypothesis that irukandji venom is heat labile and can be de-activated at thermal loads that do not cause permanent damage to the tissues of envenomed victims.
These aims will be achieved by testing jellyfish venoms on human heart cells, to determine the relationship between the concentration of jellyfish venoms to death rate of the cells. Using this data we will then be able to determine if new and novel approaches to treatment, i.e. the use of heat and intralipids, may benefit jellyfish envenomed patients.


Welfare, P., Little, M., Pereira, P. and Seymour, J., 2014. Vinegar and Chironex Fleckeri Stings-Reply. Diving and hyperbaric medicine, 44(2), pp.102-103.

Welfare, P., Little, M., Pereira, P. and Seymour, J., 2014. An in vitro examination of the effect of vinegar on discharged nematocysts of Chironex fleckeri. Diving Hyperb Med, 44(1), pp.30-34.

Klein, S.G., Pitt, K.A., Rathjen, K.A. and Seymour, J.E., 2014. Irukandji jellyfish polyps exhibit tolerance to interacting climate change stressors. Global Change Biology, 20(1), pp.28-37.

Underwood, A.H., Taylor, S. and Seymour, J.E., 2013. Range extension of the Cubozoan, Tripedalia binata Moore (Cnideria: Carybdeida: Carybdeidae) from far north Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum-Nature, 56, pp.607-614.

White, J, Seymour, J.E & Little, M. 2013. ‘A Clinicians Guide to Australian Venomous Bites and Stings’. Incorporating the updated CSL Antivenom Handbook. ISBN: 9780646579986

Colin, S.P., Costello, J.H., Katija, K., Seymour, J. and Kiefer, K., 2013. Propulsion in cubomedusae: mechanisms and utility. PloS one, 8(2), p.e56393.

Pereira, P. and Seymour, J.E., 2013. In vitro effects on human heart and skeletal cells of the venom from two cubozoans, Chironex fleckeri and Carukia barnesi. Toxicon, 76, pp.310-315.

Brinkman, D.L., Mulvenna, J., Konstantakopoulos, N., Hodgson, W.C., Isbister, G.K., Seymour, J.E. and Burnell, J.N., 2012. Molecular diversity of box jellyfish toxins. Toxicon, 60, pp.148-149.

Seymour, JE & Pereira, P, ‘Marine envenomings’, Textbook of Adult Emergency Medicine. Book chapter. Accepted 2012 Book chapter.


Amount Awarded


Grant Scheme


Principal Investigator:
Dr Peter Pereira

Co Investigators:
A/Prof Jamie Seymour
Dr Mark Little


CONTACT US +61 7 3720 5700 Suite 1B, Terraces, 19 Lang Parade, Milton Qld 4064