Opossum peptide antivenom could take on snake bites
An antidote based on a protein found in the blood of opossums could offer an effective low-cost treatment for snake bites, researchers in the US have found.
Venomous snake bites are a serious global problem, especially in developing countries. Recent estimates suggest that about 421,000 incidents occur each year worldwide, causing 20,000 deaths. However, the World Health Organization notes that these figures may be as high as 1.8 million incidents and 94,000 deaths.
But treatments are costly and inaccessible for many people. Most antivenoms are made by injecting dilute venom into a mammal, such as a horse or rabbit. This results in an immune response, and the animal’s serum is then processed so that it can be injected into snakebite victims to scavenge toxic molecules in their blood. Such treatments typically cost $100-150 (£60-100) per dose, a prohibitive price for many people in developing countries.
But a team led by Claire Komives from San Jose State University has identified a protein from the blood of opossums – animals known for their ability to survive snake bites – that can be produced in large quantities by engineered bacteria, and shows promise as an antivenom.