When used by animals, venoms are tailored to target one of two vital functions within the body -- blood circulation or the communication between nerves and muscles. Their purpose is to injure muscles, numb nerves, or stop blood from clotting so their victims bleed endlessly, making it easier for the predator to eat their now-stranded prey. But these effects on the body also have the potential to be beneficial -- through alleviating pain or preventing blood clots -- and are the prime goals of drug discovery companies in their quest to cure or treat diseases such as heart attacks or neurological disorders. "They target the right molecules within the human body in order to cure a disease ... this makes them ideal drug leads," says Researcher. The field spans beyond lethal snakes to other venom-producing animals such as leeches, cone snails, scorpions, and lizards. But as snakes primarily target warm-blooded animals, their venoms are more fruitful for human drugs. Seven drugs derived from animal venom have been approved by the FDA to date to treat conditions ranging from hypertension and other heart conditions to chronic pain and diabetes. Ten more are in clinical trials and even more, are in pre-clinical stages awaiting tests for safety and then trials in humans. But the route from venom to the drug is a long and arduous process -- with the risk to researchers of bites and stings along the way.
Why Does Snake Venom Kill So Quickly
Snakes don’t have claws or powerful jaws to pin down their prey. If the venom doesn’t kill quickly enough, the victim may escape into a burrow or up a tree and die out of reach of the snake – or, worse, injure the snake in its death throes. Snakes are in an evolutionary arms race with their prey, which is evolving ever-greater resistance to snake venom. Snakes have adapted to this by evolving venoms that contain a cocktail of several hundred different enzymes and proteins. Some block nerve transmission, others interfere with the beating rhythm of the heart, and some break down muscle tissue or cause blood vessels to suddenly become leaky. Snakes can control how much venom they inject with a single bite and generally use far more than the lethal dose. The black mamba, for example, injects up to 12 times the lethal dose for humans in each bite and may bite as many as 12 times in a single attack. This mamba has the fastest-acting venom of any snake, but humans are much larger than its usual prey, so it still takes 20 minutes for you to die.
How Long Does Snake Venom Stay Active
Snake venom may contain twenty or more toxins. Most of them are enzymes, non-enzyme peptide toxins, and non-toxic proteins. The cobra and krait venoms are neurotoxic and cardiotoxic. Local effects are seen in the former but not in the latter. Viper venom is vasculotoxic and has severe necrotizing local effects. The neurotoxins of elapids and sea snakes are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream (therefore causing rapid systemic effects), whereas the much larger molecules of viper venom are taken up more slowly through the lymphatics (therefore causing severe local effects). Most venoms do not cross the blood-brain barrier. In at least 20% of pit viper bites and a greater percentage of elapid and sea snake bites, no venom is injected.
How Does Snake Venom Travel through the Body
When bitten, a snake injects venom into the body under the skin (subcutaneous) or into the muscle of your limb (NOT into your bloodstream) and the venom travels through your body in the lymphatic system. The only way that the venom can get into your bloodstream is to be moved from the bite area by lymphatic vessels. In October 2018, 3 people were bitten by snakes within four hours across country Victoria during this spring’s first hot Sunday afternoon. No one died. In Australia, there are about 3,000 snake bites per year, resulting in about 500 hospital admissions; on average two persons per year will be fatally bitten. About half the deaths are due to bites from the Eastern brown snake. (The Eastern brown snake is the second-most toxic land snake in the world and is commonly found along the eastern seaboard of Australia and most likely in your work area). The rest of the fatalities are mostly from Tiger snakes, Taipans, King Brown, and Death Adders. If you come across a snake, don't panic. Back away to a safe distance and let it move away. Snakes often want to escape when they are disturbed.
- All snake bites must be treated as potentially life-threatening. If you are bitten by a snake, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
- Keep calm and as still as possible until medical help arrives. Do not move at all. As you move, even your fingers, it makes the venom travel through your lymphatic system quicker.
- Apply a bandage over the bite site, to an area about 10cm above and below the bite. (Mark the spot for the Dr’s). Don’t remove the shirt or pants - just bandage over the top of the clothing. Remember movement (even wriggling out of a shirt or pants) causes venom movement.
- Then using another elastic roller bandage, apply a compression bandage from the fingers/toes all the way to the armpit/groin. The bandage needs to be firm, but not so tight that it causes fingers or toes to turn purple or white.
Which Snake Venom Will Kill You the Fastest
The black mamba, for example, injects up to 12 times the lethal dose for humans in each bite and may bite as many as 12 times in a single attack. This mamba has the fastest-acting venom of any snake, but humans are much larger than its usual prey, so it still takes 20 minutes for you to die. Given how quickly its venom can kill (as quickly as 10 minutes, though sometimes it takes a few hours, depending on how much is injected; the average time until death after a bite is around 30-60 minutes), around 95% of people still die from Black Mamba bites usually due to being unable to get the anti-venom.