Psoriasis affects three per cent of the UK population, and symptoms can last for years.
The condition causes the skin to become red, flaky and covered in silver scales.
However, now scientists have discovered a potential treatment in the unlikeliest of places.
A study by Emory University found that fire ant venom could lead to a cure for the condition.
Researchers revealed that the venom of fire ants – which can be found in the United States, Australia and China – contains a toxic component called solenopsin which relieve psoriasis symptoms when mixed into a skin cream.
The fire ant venom made up one per cent.
In the study, the mixture was tested on mice with psoriasis-like skin.
It reduced skin thickness by about 30 per cent, and caused 50 per cent fewer immune cells to infiltrate the skin – both hallmarks of psoriasis that cause the build-up of itchy, scaly skin patches.
“We believe that solenopsin analogues are contributing to full restoration of the barrier function in the skin,” said Jack Arbiser, a dermatologist at Emory University.
“Emollients can soothe the skin in psoriasis, but they are not sufficient for restoration of the barrier.”
The venom was also found to decrease the activity of genes that may have become over-activated by some of the treatments for the skin condition that are currently available, such as steroids and ultraviolet light.
Researchers will next test whether the effects could be replicated in trials on human skin.
According to the NHS, psoriasis is caused when skin cells are replaced more quickly than usual.
It is not yet known why this happens, but scientists believe it’s likely to be triggered by a problem with the immune system.
Normally, the body produces new skin cells in the deepest layer of skin, which then move up until they reach the outermost level before dying off, in a process that takes three to four weeks.
In psoriasis sufferers this cycle may only last three to seven days.