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Snakes whose venom could save your life

Admin October 19, 2009 Interesting, Medicine, Research Comments Off on Snakes whose venom could save your life
Snakes whose venom could save your life

Preliminary research shows a natural compound in some snake venoms may prevent the growth of cancerous tumors, potentially transforming one of nature’s deadliest toxins into a curative agent. Snakes use venom to alter biological functions, and that’s what medicine does too. This is why venoms have always been of interest to medical researchers.  Of the nearly 3,000 species of snakes in the world, about 650 are venomous. Ten of the most deadly live in Australia. Venoms are exquisitely complex, composed of as many as a hundred different peptides, enzymes, and toxins. Not only are the venoms of every snake species different, there are also subtle variations within each species.

Malayan pit viper

This snake has long fangs, is ill-tempered, and is responsible for many bites. Its venom is hemotoxic, destroying blood cells and tissue, but a victim’s chances of survival are good with medical aid. This viper is a ground dweller that moves into many areas in search of food. The greatest danger is in stepping on the snake with bare feet.


The venom of the Malayan Pit viper has been found to have important medical significance. Researchers discovered that the blood of people who had been bitten by this snake did not clot normally for several days thereafter. A protein in the venom triggers this anti-platelet activity. Medical researchers recognized that this side effect of the venom might have benefit in the treatment of stroke victims. Hence, the venom became the focus of research for the development of pharmaceutical products.  A purified form of Malayan Pit Viper venom, registered with the trademark “Arvin”, has been used successfully to thin blood. Not only does it dissolve blood clots, it also triggers the human body’s own clot dissolving mechanism. Drugs derived from the Malayan Pit Viper venom differ from other therapies in as much as the previous drugs had to be administered within three hours of the onset of the stroke. Drugs manufactured from this snake’s venom are effective when administered as long as six hours after onset of stroke, thus doubling the time frame for effective therapy.

King cobras

King cobras can reach 18 feet (5.5 meters) in length, making them the longest of all venomous snakes. When confronted, they can raise up to one-third of their bodies straight off the ground and still move forward to attack. They will also flare out their iconic hoods and emit a bone-chilling hiss that sounds almost like a growling dog.


Their venom is not the most potent among venomous snakes, but the amount of neurotoxin they can deliver in a single bite—up to two-tenths of a fluid ounce (seven milliliters)—is enough to kill 20 people, or even an elephant. Fortunately, king cobras are shy and will avoid humans whenever possible, but they are fiercely aggressive when cornered.  Today, Cobra venom is being studied for treating various forms of pain, cancers, autoimmune and neurological disorders. The Nutra Pharma subsidiary, ReceptoPharm, and other researchers have definitively proven that cobra venom contains constituents that control pain and inflammation. Researchers in China are examining the possibility that cobra venom can be used to treat drug addiction. The National Cancer Institute in Italy has participated in Chinese clinical trials to assess the efficacy of Cobra toxins in controlling post operative pain and moderate to severe cancer pain.

Black mamba

The Black Mamba is the most deadly snake in the world. They grow 14 feet in length, and can travel at speeds of up to 12 mph. They have a head shaped like a coffin. The Black Mamba is not actually black. They have a brownish-gray body with a light belly and brownish scales along its back. It gets its name from the color of the lining of its mouth, which is purple-black, and which it displays when threatened.


Black Mambas venom contains powerful, fast-acting neurotoxins and cardiotoxins, including calciseptine.  Calcoseptine contains 60 amino acids with four disulfide bonds and is one of the main culprits for the Black Mambas prey to stop pumping blood through its veins.  If the victim does not receive medical attention, symptoms rapidly progress to severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath), and paralysis. Eventually, the victim experiences convulsions, respiratory arrest, coma, and then death. Without antivenom, the mortality rate is nearly 100%, the highest among venomous snakes. The venom of what some consider the fastest snake in the world is of special interest to the medical community and has been used in at least one pharmaceutical medicine called Calciseptine. The therapeutic value of the Black Mamba venom is said to be an inhibitor of cardiac contractions and a smooth muscle relaxant.

Inland taipan

Although the inland taipan has the most lethal venom of any snake in the world, it is placid and shy. However, if cornered and/or provoked, it holds it’s body in low, flat, S-shaped curves with it’s head pointed straight at the disturber. It usually makes a single bite, or a few fast ones.


The Inland Taipan has neurotoxic venom that could potentially kill an adult human in 45 minutes. There have been no documented human fatalities; bites were treated using antivenom. The venom of the inland taipan is primarily neurotoxic, so bites result in overwhelming effects on the nervous system. This may include in rapid respiratory paralysis, and death. Although they are rarely encountered, because of their secretive life habits, these are truly one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Taipans are ‘milked’ of their venom by getting them to inject venom into a jar through a rubber cover. The venom is used to make medicine to help save people who are bitten by a taipan. The procoagulants in the venom of the inland taipan are used to activate prothrombin to alpha thrombin. The anticoagulants are used to prevent interference of immunoglobins which interfere with phospholipid dependent in vitro coagulation tests.

Snake venoms have great potential for medical use because of the wide variety of compounds they contain and the specific action of each compound . Although no medical preparation derived directly from snake venom is used now in the United States , a few such compounds are used in Asia , Europe , and Latin America for treatment of blood disorders . Nowhere is a whole venom used as a medicine ; instead , specific components are extracted .
Beat-blockers-drugs widely used in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases-owe their discovery to research on Bothrops venoms . These venoms contain a peptide that interrupts the activity of an enzyme involved in hypertension (high blood pressure) . Two analgesics derive from cobra venom : Cobroxin is used like morphine to block nerve transmission , and Nyloxin reduces severe arthritis pain . Arvin , an extract of the Malayan pitviper (Calloselasma) , is an effective anticoagulant (it inhibits the formation of blood cloths) .
Venom components are also used in basic research in physiology , biochemistry , and immunology . By retarding or speedin

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