Here is why India needs specific anti-venom for snakebites in different regions

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

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By Dr Aditi Jain

New Delhi: 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.

Prof Ashis K. Mukherjee, Aparup Patra and Abhishek Chanda (left to right).

“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.

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)