Discovery May Change Treatment of Snake Bites

Research raises hope of a universal antivenom
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2024 1:20 PM CST
Discovery May Change Treatment of Snake Bites
Black mamba snake sitting in a tree in South Africa.   (Getty / MarieHolding)

Scientists from Scripps Research have developed a synthetic antibody that's effective against the lethal venom of four separate snake species. This discovery could be a game-changer in creating a universal antivenom for hundreds of deadly snakes,, reports, which typically require separate antivenoms manufactured for each type of snake.

What's the deal with snake venom?

  • Found in the toxic saliva of different snake varieties, it's made up of a complex set of compounds that target nerve cells, blood clotting, or tissue to paralyze or kill prey.
  • Venomous snakes kill between 81,000 to 138,000 people every year (and disable 400,000 more), primarily in Africa and Asia, according to
What cures exist today?
  • Standard antivenoms are composed of antibodies taken from animals immunized through nonlethal doses of a venom, per
  • One drawback: people must identify which type of snake bit them to get the correct antivenom—which isn't always a known factor.
  • Most antivenoms target a specific toxin, which requires hundreds of varieties to be medically on hand. Mixed solutions that target several types of snake venoms exist, but can be less effective.
Onto the new stuff:
  • The team of researchers found a common type of protein in a variety of elapid snakes (which include deadly mambas, cobras, and kraits). They tested their library of 50 billion human antibodies to see which could bond to the protein and neutralize the venom.
  • After narrowing the best contenders down, they ultimately found that an antibody called 95Mat5 was effective on most varieties of the protein.
  • During initial testing on mice injected with venom from numerous snakes, all the rodents survived after receiving doses of 95Mat5, New Atlas reports, and also evaded paralysis.

What's next?

  • Despite its life-saving potential, funding further research on snakebites could be an issue because they typically aren't a major cause for concern in wealthier nations.
  • With proper funding, however, the researchers see potential in developing a "cocktail of antibodies" that protects against all the world's deadliest snakes. "You'd no longer have to stock hundreds of antivenoms," says Joseph Jardine, an author on the paper. "You could stock a single universal one."
(More stories about snakes.)

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