About 300 species of snakes are found in India of which 10 are venomous. Among these 10, the Big Four—Indian Cobra, Common Krait, Russell’s Viper and Saw-Scaled Viper—are the deadliest.
Scientists in IIT-Delhi, in association with the San Jose State University, USA, have developed a cheaper, much more effective anti-venom to snake bites.
Incidentally, this invention in Delhi will be a great help to the people of Kerala.
As the floodwaters in Kerala recede, people are finally returning home, only to be welcomed by snakes hiding in the nooks and crannies inside.
About 300 species of snakes are found in India of which 10 are venomous. Among these 10, the Big Four—Indian Cobra, Common Krait, Russell’s Viper and Saw-Scaled Viper—are the deadliest and are responsible for causing the highest number of snakebite-related deaths in India, while the venom of the remaining six is capable of making you unconscious.
Currently, the anti-venom used in India is a horse serum that is immunised with snake venom.
Each vial of the anti-venom costs about Rs 500. However, this also comes with its share of medical risks. For example, if you are bitten by an Indian Cobra and are immunised with this anti-venom, you might still develop a reaction to the anti-venom of the other three snakes, or the horse serum.
IIT-Delhi recently found the perfect solution to this. They developed the Lethal Toxin Neutralising Factor (LTNF) which is a peptide-based treatment that eliminates the risk of allergic reaction to horse serums.
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Professor Anurag Rathore, a member of the chemical engineering department, told Hindustan Times, “This is a polyvalent anti-venom, which will be effective against a bunch of snake bites, unlike the ones currently available that are effective against only the big four. We have already shown its efficacy in two of the four snakes in mice model(s), and the other two are underway.”
This new anti-venom developed in Delhi will also be much cheaper than its current counterpart.
The IIT scientists are aiming to sell it at the rate of $1 (around Rs 70) per dose. Apart from a low cost of the medicine, the scientists have also tackled another important issue for the anti-venom— that of transportation.
“Serums are not very heat-stable and need to be stored in the correct cold-chain conditions for them to work. This makes transport and storage a problem in semi-urban and rural areas, where most of the snake bites occur,” he told the publication.
Speaking to NDTV, Rathore said, “The LTNF that we are proposing can be stored at room temperatures for several years. We have genetically manipulated the E. Coli micro-organism to make this peptide. When the E. Coli grows, it releases the peptide itself which we purify later.”
The LTNF will be in powdered form, making it far more stable than liquid anti-venoms. The professor said that it could be mixed with saline at the time of administration, letting it flow into the bloodstream—where venom affects a person.
Stable, cost-effective and easy to use, this development by IIT Delhi certainly promises to be a blessing for trekkers, wildlife enthusiasts, farmers, Kerala flood victims and anyone who runs the risk of being bitten by a venomous snake. If you find a snake in your house in Kerala, you can call these helpline numbers.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)