Snake Venom: Imagine walking barefoot in a grassland. with each step, you feel the soft grass and the wet soil beneath your feet and you relish in the freedom of being in nature.
Even though this soothing experience may sound nice, it can turn into a nightmare with the single bite of a sneaky creature: A snake. As elongated, limbless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder serpents, snakes are among the deadliest animals in the world.
There are more than 3,000 snake species 600 of which are venomous, and they are found almost anywhere on the planes except for very cold places such as Antarctica or Greenland.
Snakes use different means to kill their prey. Non-venomous snakes, ranging from garter snakes to pythons, kill their prey by swallowing them whole or strangling them to death.
Venomous snakes, on the other hand, use venom which is produced in their glands snake venom is made up of a complex combination of enzymes and non-enzymatic proteins. Snakes use it to immobilize the prey and predigest their tissue.
There are two types of snake venoms: haemotoxic and neurotoxic venom. Neither of them is pleasing for the prey. Unfortunately, humans suffer from snake attacks, and the number of people dying or becoming disabled because of these snake bites is not low. Luckily, there are antivenom cures for these kinds of attacks.
Snakes live in almost every part of this planet, and like every other animal, they have their ways to hunt prey and survive for the next day.
How snake venom kills so quickly
A single drop of snake venom can cause human blood to clot in seconds. And there are more than 250 species on Earth that can kill a human with a single bite.
There are two main ways snake venom works by attacking the circulatory system and/or the nervous system. Hepatotoxic venom attacks the bloodstream triggering lots of tiny blood clots.
The venom punches holes in the blood vessels and the person bleeds to death.
Neurotoxic venom attacks the nervous system and stops nerve signals from getting through to the muscles.
This can result in full-body paralysis. which if untreated leads to paralysis of the diaphragm. The person then can’t breathe and dies.
Even if the individual doesn’t die necrosis can set in around the area of the bite. The venom destroys nearby muscles, tissues, and cells.
Necrosis: The death of most or all the cells in an Organ or Tissue
Which can end up requiring amputations. Snake venom is produced in glands in the back of the snake’s head. And is delivered through hollow fangs that act like hypodermic needles.
When a snake bites muscles in its head squeeze the venom glands. Which push the liquid through its fangs and into the flesh of its prey.
The venom is ejected with a velocity equivalent to that of a water pistol and it can travel 4 to 8 feet(1.2 to 2.4 meters).
Fortunaely, we have a way to Fight back Antivenoms!
To create antivenom scientists inject small amounts of venom into domestic animals such as horses or sheep. The animals produce powerful antibodies that bind to snake venom components and these antibodies are harvested and purified from the blood for use in humans.
Antivenoms work by boosting our immune response after a snakebite.
a good – quality antivenom can literally be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately antivenoms are produced in limited quantities and are very expensive. Which means most people can’t obtain them. Snakes’ venom has diversified over time.
making it more complex and more toxic than it was hundreds of thousands of years ago. This makes it difficult to develop a universal antivenom. Which could target a wide variety of snake bites.
Additionally production of one of the best antivenoms. which protected against the bite of ten different types of snake.
Stopped in 2014 as it wasn’t profitable. The last vials expired in 2016. Which has led to a race to produce an effective and affordable replacement.
5,000,000 million people worldwide are bitten by snakes a year. 100,000 people die, and the other 400,000 are left permanently disabled or disfigured by the bites.
As shocking as these numbers are they could be even higher as the nations that are most affected often don’t keep track of snake bites. This makes producing a viable universal antivenom increasingly important.