Here is why India needs specific anti-venom for snakebites in different regions
By Dr. Aditi Jain

New Delhi, May 23 (India Science Wire): Snakebite, which is a neglected public health concern,
causes nearly 50,000 deaths in India every year. Four snake varieties - Indian Cobra, Russel’s
viper, saw-scaled viper and Indian common krait are mostly responsible for most snakebite
deaths. The currently available anti-venoms are effective for treating people bitten by these
snakes. But venom composition of snakes varies across geography and there is a need to study
venom of snakes from different regions to help make region-specific anti-venoms.

Now a new study by scientists from Tezpur University in Assam has cautioned that commonly
used anti-venoms are not effective in the case of South Indian kraits. The researchers have
profiled the venom from kraits found in South India and found that it had some noxious
proteins which commonly used anti-venoms do not recognize and neutralize.

Indian common krait (B. caeruleus) is one of the medically important venomous snakes in the
subcontinent and accounts for a large number of snakebite deaths and illness.

“Determination of the composition of venom of a specific species of snake at a particular
geographical location is necessary for a better understanding of the variation in venom
composition and its correlation with symptoms of snakebite as well for designing region-
specific anti-venoms,” explained Dr. Ashis K. Mukherjee, leader of the research team, while
speaking to India Science Wire.

For this study, the scientists used venom pooled from four krait snakes of South India. They
found that it had 57 large and small proteins. The neurotoxic effect of the venom was due to
two large proteins – beta-bungarotoxin, and κ-bungarotoxin. The scientists also found that
South India Krait has cytotoxins in its venom, which is absent in kraits from Sri Lanka, which
again emphasizes that venom composition differs with geographical location.

The researchers then tested the ability of commercial anti-venoms to neutralize the large and
small proteins in the venom. They found that although antivenins were able to bind and
neutralize larger proteins, they were unable to do so with smaller proteins like phospholipase
A2 (PLA2) and three finger toxins (3FTxs), which are present in copious amounts (up to 85%) in
South India Krait venom.

“This insight will help anti-venom manufacturers to re-design their production facilities to come
up with anti-venom for against South Indian Krait. We are already working in collaboration with
an anti-venom manufacturing company,” added Dr. Mukherjee who has worked on this subject
for 25 years.

The team has published its findings in the journal Expert Review in Proteomics. The team
included Aparup Patra and Abhishek Chanda, apart from Dr. Mukherjee.
(India Science Wire)
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