Snake Bites

Snake Bites

Snake Bites | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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According to the CDC, about 8,000 snakebites happen in the U.S. each year. Even a bite from a “harmless” snake can cause infection or allergic reaction in some people.

For your safety, treat all snakebites as if they were venomous and get to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible. This is especially true if you aren't sure of the exact type of snake that bit you. With the correct treatment (antivenin), you can prevent severe illness or death.

Antivenin, also called antivenom, is a treatment specific to the venom of a particular animal or insect.

If you often spend time in wilderness areas, camp, hike, picnic, or live in snake-inhabited areas, learn the potential dangers posed by venomous snakes. You should:

  • Know how to identify venomous snakes
  • Be able to get to medical help in case of emergency
  • Be aware that snakes are more active during warmer months

What snakes are venomous?

The most common venomous snakebites are caused by the following snakes:

  • Pit vipers. These include rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouth (water moccasin) snakes.
  • Coral snakes

Rattlesnake bites cause most of the venomous bites in the U.S. Coral snakes and imported exotic snakes cause a much smaller number of snakebites.

What are the symptoms of venomous bites?

Different snakes have different types of venom and symptoms may differ. The following are the most common symptoms of venomous snakebites: 

  • Bloody wound discharge
  • Excessive bleeding and difficulty with clotting of blood 
  • Fang marks in the skin and swelling at the site of the bite
  • Severe pain at the bite site
  • Discoloration, such as redness and bruising 
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the area affected
  • Diarrhea
  • Burning
  • Convulsions
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Increased thirst
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness and tingling, especially in the mouth
  • Rapid pulse
  • Altered mental state
  • Shock
  • Paralysis
  • Breathing difficulties

The symptoms of a venomous snakebite may look other health conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Treatment for snakebites

Call for emergency help right away if someone has been bitten by a snake. Responding quickly in this type of emergency is crucial. While waiting for emergency help:

  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Keep the bitten area still and lower than the heart.
  • Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to ease swelling and discomfort.
  • Monitor breathing and heart rate.
  • Remove all rings, watches, and constrictive clothing, in case of swelling.
  • Note the time of the bite so that it can be reported to an emergency room healthcare provider if needed.
  • If possible, try to remember to draw a circle around the affected area and mark the time of the bite and the initial reaction. If you are able, redraw the circle around the site of injury marking the progression of time.
  • It is helpful to remember what the snake looks , its size, and the type of snake if you know it, in order to tell the emergency room staff.
  • Don't apply a tourniquet.
  • Don't try to suck the venom out.

At the emergency department you may be given:

  • Antibiotics to prevent or treat developing infections
  • Medicine to treat your pain
  • A special type of antivenin depending on the type of snake that bit you and the severity of your symptoms

Preventing snakebites

Some bites are nearly impossible to prevent. These include a snake that bites you when you accidentally step on it in the woods. But you can take steps to reduce your chances of being bitten by a snake. These include:

  • Leave snakes alone. Many people are bitten because they try to kill a snake or get too close to it.
  • Stay tall grass unless you wear thick leather boots and remain on hiking paths as much as possible.
  • Keep hands and feet areas you can't see. Don't pick up rocks or firewood unless you are a snake's striking distance.
  • Be cautious and alert when climbing rocks.

Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/snake-bites

Cobra–bite victim saved by Philly Zoo, medical staffers | 6abc Philadelphia

Snake Bites | Johns Hopkins Medicine
PHILADELPHIA, PA (January 26, 2010) The woman, who declines to reveal her identity, but told authorities she is not the snake's owner, may owe her life to the team, including Jason Bell, Philadelphia Zoo Assistant Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, who was in his suburban Philadelphia home Sunday night when he received an urgent call from Maryland Poison Control.

Facts were few: a woman, about to enter her car, had been bitten on the hand by a monocled cobra, and had been rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Maryland Poison Control asked Bell whether the Zoo could supply antivenom. After caring for snakes for more than a decade, Bell knew the victim faced serious, possibly life-threatening complications without the special antivenom to counteract the neurotoxic effects of the bite.

Maryland Poison Control, which tracked down Bell and the Philadelphia Zoo's antivenom supply using the online Antivenom Index, stayed in constant contact with Bell as he rushed to the Zoo to retrieve the South African-made antivenom.

He packed the refrigerated vials and relayed them to a waiting team of troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police Belmont Barracks.

The state police helicopter had been grounded due to heavy rains so the troopers drove to Maryland where the life-saving serum was delivered to a waiting Hopkins ambulance.

“She was very lucky,” says Bell, who has seen similar bite cases – none involving zoo workers. “She was bitten on the finger and not closer to the heart. Some cobra bites can cause rapid death.” The Philadelphia zoo collection includes about 100 snakes, about half of which are venomous.

Dr. Andrew Baker, the Philadelphia Zoo's Chief Operating Officer, says there is a lesson to be learned through the incident. “The information-sharing system worked and saved a life. But that snake should never have been a danger to anyone. Venomous snakes are not pets. If you want to see a cobra, see it in the safety of a zoo.”

About the Antivenom Index

In 2006, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), of which the Philadelphia Zoo is a member, in collaboration with the American Association of Poison Control Centers, developed an online Antivenom Index that is currently managed, updated, and hosted by the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy.

The Antivenom Index is available only to representatives from AZA-accredited institutions and poison control centers.

The Index is used to assist zoo and aquarium personnel manage their antivenom inventory used to treat bites or stings from the animals in their care and to help poison control center personnel locate appropriate antivenom as needed.

About the Philadelphia Zoo:

Philadelphia Zoo, America's first zoo, is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding. Chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, the Zoo is currently home to over 1,300 animals from around the world, many rare and endangered.

Welcoming more than one million visitors each year from throughout the region and beyond, the Zoo serves children and families as a unique and engaging public resource for wildlife conservation and education.

The Philadelphia Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

For more information or to purchase and print tickets online, visit www.philadelphiazoo.org.

Source: https://6abc.com/archive/7242260/

Johns Hopkins Scientists Give Psychedelics the Serious Treatment

Snake Bites | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Psychedelic drugs—once promising research subjects that were decades ago relegated to illicit experimentation in dorm rooms—have been steadily making their way back into the lab for a revamped 21st-century-style look.

Scientists are rediscovering what many see as the substances’ astonishing therapeutic potential for a vast range of issues, from depression to drug addiction and acceptance of mortality. A frenzy of interest has captivated a new generation of researchers, aficionados and investors, triggering some understandable wariness over promises that may sound a little too good to be true.

But late last year the highly respected institution Johns Hopkins University—the U.S.’s oldest research university—launched a dedicated center for psychedelic studies, the first of its kind in the country and perhaps the world’s largest.

With work now underway, the center is aiming to enforce the strictest standards of scientific rigor on a field that many feel has veered uncomfortably close to mysticism and that has relied heavily on subjective reports. Early results have been promising and seem poised to keep the research on a roll.

Psilocybin (a psychoactive compound found in certain mushrooms) and LSD were widely studied in the 1950s and 1960s as treatments for alcoholism and other maladies.

They later gained a reputation in the media and the public eye as dangerous and became strongly associated with the counterculture. Starting in 1966, several states banned their use.

In 1968 LSD was outlawed nationwide, and in 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, classifying that drug and psilocybin, along with several others, as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

But in recent years a rapidly growing number of studies reporting encouraging results in treating depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have brought them back the shadows, spurred on by positive media coverage.

In a major boost to the reviving field, Johns Hopkins’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research is exploring the use of psychedelics—primarily psilocybin—for problems ranging from smoking addiction to anorexia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“One of the remarkably interesting features of working with psychedelics is they’re ly to have transdiagnostic applicability,” says Roland Griffiths, who heads the new facility and has led some of the most promising studies evaluating psilocybin for treating depression and alcoholism.

The myriad applications suggested for these drugs may be a big part of what makes them sound, to many, snake oil—but “the data [are] very compelling,” Griffiths says. And psychedelics may not only hold hope for treating mental disorders.

As Griffiths puts it, they provide an opportunity to “peer into the basic neuroscience of how these drugs affect brain activity and worldview in a way that is ultimately very healthy.”

As author Michael Pollan chronicles in his 2018 best seller How to Change Your Mind, researchers were examining the therapeutic effects of psychedelics in the 1950s—a decade before then Harvard University psychologist Timothy Leary and his colleague Richard Alpert started their notorious study in which they gave psilocybin to students (ultimately leading to Leary’s and Alpert’s dismissal from the university). In the 1950s–1970s, studies conducted with LSD—which acts on the same brain receptors as psilocybin—reported strong results in treating substance use disorders, including alcohol and heroin addiction. But when LSD became illegal in 1968, funding for this work gradually dried up. Most psychedelics research stopped or went underground.

Psychedelics’ New Wave

Griffiths and some of his colleagues helped revive the field around 2000, when they obtained government approval to give high doses of psilocybin to healthy volunteers. The researchers published a foundational study in 2006 showing a single dose was safe and could cause sustained positive effects and even “mystical experiences.

” A decade later they published a randomized double-blind study showing psilocybin significantly decreased depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer. Each participant underwent two sessions (a high-dose one and a low-dose one) five weeks apart.

Six months afterward, about 80 percent of the patients were still less clinically depressed and anxious than before the treatment. Some even said they had lost their fear of death.

Armed with these promising results, Griffiths and his colleagues turned their attention to other clinical applications.

They decided to investigate tobacco addiction—in part because it is much easier to quantify than emotional or spiritual outcomes.

Johns Hopkins researcher Matthew Johnson led a small pilot study in 2014 to see whether psilocybin could help people quit smoking. It was an open-label study, meaning the participants knew they were getting the drug and not a placebo.

The work followed a classic model for psychedelic therapy in which the participant lies on a couch and wears eyeshades while listening to music.

Researchers do not talk to or guide subjects during the trip, but before each session, they do try to prepare people for what they might experience.

In Johnson and his colleagues’ study, participants also underwent several weeks of cognitive-behavioral therapy (talk therapy aimed at changing patterns of thinking) before and after taking psilocybin.

The drug was given in up to three sessions—one on the target quit date, another two weeks later and a third, optional one eight weeks afterward. The subjects returned to the lab for the next 10 weeks to have their breath and urine tested for evidence of smoking and came back for follow-up meetings six and 12 months after their target quit date.

At the six-month mark, 80 percent of smokers in the pilot study (12 15) had abstained from cigarettes for at least a week, as verified by Breathalyzer and urine analysis—a vast improvement over other smoking cessation therapies, whose efficacy rates are typically less than 35 percent.

In a follow-up paper, Johnson and his colleagues reported that 67 percent of participants were still abstinent 12 months after their quit date, and 60 percent of them had not smoked after 16 months or more.

Additionally, more than 85 percent of the subjects rated their psilocybin trip as one of the five most meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives.

The team is currently more than halfway through a larger, five-year study of 80 people randomized to receive either psilocybin or a nicotine patch at the new Johns Hopkins center. Recruitment for the study is ongoing.

The exact brain mechanism by which the therapy appears to work remains unclear. At the psychological level, Johnson says, there is evidence that the sense of unity and mystical significance many people experience on psilocybin is associated with greater success in quitting, and those who take the drug may be better able to deal with cravings.

At the biological level, he adds, scientists have hypothesized that psilocybin may alter communication in brain networks, possibly providing more top-down control over the organ’s reward system.

A team led by Johns Hopkins cognitive neuroscientist Frederick Barrett is now investigating further by using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity before and after patients undergo the therapy.

any drug, psilocybin comes with risks. People with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia (or a strong predisposition for them) are generally advised against taking the hallucinogen.

People with uncontrolled hypertension are advised to abstain as well, because psilocybin is known to raise blood pressure.

Although it appears to be one of the safest “recreational” drugs and is not considered addictive, there have been reports associating it with deaths—but these may have been the result of multiple drugs, impure substances or underlying medical issues.

In the smoking study, a third of participants experienced some fear or anxiety at a high dose of the psilocybin, Johnson says. But he adds that the risks can be minimized by carefully selecting participants and administering the drug in a controlled environment.

The smoking study results are promising, but Johnson says its relatively small size is a limitation. Also, subjects in such studies cannot comprise a completely random sample of the population, because it would be unethical to recruit people without telling them they may be taking a psychedelic drug.

Thus, participants tend to be people who are open to this category of experience and, potentially, more apt to believe in its efficacy. And it is also hard to tease apart the effects of psilocybin from those of the cognitive-behavioral therapy in the smoking study, Johnson notes.

He and his colleagues at the new center plan to conduct a double-blind, placebo-controlled study—the gold standard for medical investigations—in the future.

Johns Hopkins researchers are also starting or planning studies using psilocybin therapy for a wide range of other conditions, including opioid addiction, PTSD, anorexia, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and alcoholism in people with depression.

David Nichols, a professor emeritus of pharmacology at Purdue University, who was not involved in the recent Johns Hopkins studies but had synthesized the psilocybin used in Griffiths’s 2006 and 2016 papers, has been conducting research on psychedelics since the late 1960s.

Back then, “you probably could have counted on one hand the number of people in the world that were working in this field. There wasn’t any money; there was no interest. [Psychedelics] were just looked at as drugs of abuse,” he says.

Now “there’s a whole society set up to study these, with probably 150 international scientists working on it.”

Nichols says he has supported Griffiths’s and Johnson’s work since its early days, as they gathered the initial data that excited wealthy donors enough to fund the latest research.

Philanthropic funding “is the way it’s going to be—until the National Institutes of Health decide that this is a field worth funding,” he says.

“There are still too many political considerations that are keeping that from happening, but eventually, we’ll get there. We’ll get institutional support. We’re just not there yet.”

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/johns-hopkins-scientists-give-psychedelics-the-serious-treatment/

Coral Snake Venom Reveals a Unique Route to Lethality – 02/09/2015

Snake Bites | Johns Hopkins Medicine

The rare coral snake Micrurus mipartitus

Alejandro Solórzano

For more than a decade, a vial of rare snake venom refused to give up its secret formula for lethality; its toxins had no effect on the proteins that most venoms target.

Finally, an international team of researchers figured out its recipe: a toxin that permanently activates a crucial type of nerve cell protein, preventing the cells from resetting and causing deadly seizures in prey.

The details will be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Feb. 9.

“What we found are the first known animal toxins, and by far the most potent compounds, to target GABA(A) receptors,” says Frank Bosmans, Ph.D.

, assistant professor of physiology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Once they bind to the receptors, they don’t let go.”

Biochemical studies revealed the identity of the venom’s active ingredient: it’s actually twin proteins, dubbed micrurotoxins (MmTX) after their serpentine source, the reclusive coral snake Micrurus mipartitus.

Most toxins in snake venoms target specialized nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on the surface of nerve cells that make muscles contract, paralyzing the snakes’ victims. But when the researchers tested MmTX on lab-grown cells saturated with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, nothing happened.

This was puzzling because, in mice, MmTX was known to cause a repeating pattern of relaxation and seizures, similar to what’s seen in epilepsy.

By tagging the protein with a radioactive label, the team at Aix Marseille University was able to find out what protein it acted on. To the team’s surprise, MmTX binds to GABA(A) receptors — pores on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. GABA(A) receptors’ job is to respond to the molecule GABA by opening to let negatively charged chloride ions flow into a nerve cell that has just fired. Doing so resets the cell’s equilibrium so that it can fire another signal when needed. Further testing showed that MmTX binds to GABA(A) receptors more tightly than any other compound known — 100 times tighter than the plant-derived compound PTX, for example. MmTX also binds to a unique site on the GABA(A) receptor protein. Binding at that site changes the receptor’s shape, making it far too sensitive to GABA molecules. When GABA binds, the receptor’s pore opens permanently and the nerve cell is never able to reset, causing it to misfire, convulsing the animal and potentially causing death. “Anti-anxiety medications diazepam and alprazolam bind to GABA(A) receptors too, but they cause relaxation instead of seizures because they bind much more loosely,” says Bosmans. His team plans to use MmTX as a tool for learning more about how GABA(A) receptors work. Since errors in the receptors can cause epilepsy, schizophrenia and chronic pain, the team hopes that their future work will be able to shed light on these and other disorders. Other authors of the report include Jean-Pierre Rosso, Brigitte Ceard and Pierre Bougis of Aix Marseille University in France; Jurgen Schwarz and Matthias Kneussel of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany; Marcelo Diaz-Bustamante of The Johns Hopkins University; Maria Gutierrex of the Universidad de Costa Rica; and Olaf Pongs of the Universitat des Saarlandes in Germany.

This work was supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/coral_snake_venom_reveals_a_unique_route_to_lethality

Dr. Barry S. Gold

Snake Bites | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Dr. Barry S. Gold, a Baltimore internist and herpetologist who was an international expert on the management and treatment of venomous snakebites, died Monday of heart failure at Sinai Hospital.

The longtime Pikesville resident was 61.

Barry Steven Gold was born in Baltimore and raised on Menlo Drive in Northwest Baltimore. He was a 1965 graduate of City College and earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Maryland in 1969.

After earning a medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1973, he completed an internship and residency at Maryland General Hospital.

Dr. Gold's career path was altered after he had been bitten by a snake.

“When he was on a Boy Scout camping trip to Western Maryland, he was bitten by a rattlesnake and taken back to Baltimore, where he was given antivenom,” said his wife of 19 years, the former Linell Cahn.

“About 20 years ago, he started researching about the treatments for venomous bites and became an expert in envenomation,” Mrs. Gold said.

In addition to working with venomous snakes, Dr. Gold practiced internal medicine until retiring from private practice in 2005.

He then went to work at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where he practiced family medicine, and in the emergency department of the Veterans Administration Hospital in downtown Baltimore.

Dr. Gold was also a consultant to poison centers, as well as the National Aquarium, Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

“He'd get phone calls from as far away as Russia asking about how to treat a snakebite victim,” Mrs. Gold said.

“People also called him because they found a snake in their backyard and they didn't know what to do. If it were a rat snake, for instance, he'd tell them not to kill it because they eat mice,” she said.

In an article that Dr. Gold wrote in collaboration with Dr. Richard C. Dart and Dr. Robert A. Barish, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, the authors concluded that most snakebite victims are “typically male” and between 17 and 27 years old.

“Ninety-eight percent of bites are on extremities, most often on the hands or arms, and result from deliberate attempts to handle, harm, or kill the snake,” the authors wrote.

“Most bites occur between April and September, when most snakes are active and humans are outdoors. Alcohol intoxication of the victim is a factor in many envenomations,” they wrote.

“Barry was one of the finest physicians I've ever known. His level of knowledge was incomparable and everyone wanted him for their doctor,” said Dr. Barish, vice dean for clinical affairs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a longtime friend.

“He also debunked the myths of cutting and sucking venom from snakebite wounds, icing them or using tourniquets because they actually make the situation worse and delay proper treatment,” he said.

“The best treatment, really, is a set of car keys so you can get the patient to a hospital, and not panicking,” Dr. Barish said.

In 2002, Dr. Gold said in an interview with The New York Times that those “old anecdotal methods of treating snakebites are outdated and really should be abolished.”

He added: “In most cases, they just complicate the wound and cause a delay in getting treatment. Venomous snakebites require aggressive emergency medical care and, if necessary, antivenom to fight the potentially fatal poison.”

He also was a frequent guest on radio and TV shows, where he spoke about how to avoid being bitten by a snake.

Dr. Gold also held several academic appointments. He was clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

His professional memberships included the Baltimore City Medical Society, the American College of Physicians, the International Society of Toxicology and the Maryland Herpetological Society.

Dr. Gold also had served as a physician-adviser to the cast and crew of Hollywood movies, including Tin Men, Hairspray and Patriot Games, which were filmed in the Baltimore area.

Dr. Gold had a pilot's license and enjoyed flying and Formula One auto racing. He also d playing video games with his son.

Services were Wednesday.

Also surviving are a son, Samuel I. Gold, 17, and a daughter, Faith A. Gold, 16, both of Pikesville.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Source: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-2008-07-05-0807040107-story.html

Coral snake venom reveals a unique route to lethality

Snake Bites | Johns Hopkins Medicine

For more than a decade, a vial of rare snake venom refused to give up its secret formula for lethality; its toxins had no effect on the proteins that most venoms target.

Finally, an international team of researchers figured out its recipe: a toxin that permanently activates a crucial type of nerve cell protein, preventing the cells from resetting and causing deadly seizures in prey.

The details will be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Feb. 9.

“What we found are the first known animal toxins, and by far the most potent compounds, to target GABA(A) receptors,” says Frank Bosmans, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Once they bind to the receptors, they don't let go.”

Biochemical studies revealed the identity of the venom's active ingredient: it's actually twin proteins, dubbed micrurotoxins (MmTX) after their serpentine source, the reclusive coral snake Micrurus mipartitus.

Most toxins in snake venoms target specialized nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on the surface of nerve cells that make muscles contract, paralyzing the snakes' victims. But when the researchers tested MmTX on lab-grown cells saturated with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, nothing happened.

This was puzzling because, in mice, MmTX was known to cause a repeating pattern of relaxation and seizures, similar to what's seen in epilepsy.

By tagging the protein with a radioactive label, the team at Aix Marseille University was able to find out what protein it acted on. To the team's surprise, MmTX binds to GABA(A) receptors — pores on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

GABA(A) receptors' job is to respond to the molecule GABA by opening to let negatively charged chloride ions flow into a nerve cell that has just fired. Doing so resets the cell's equilibrium so that it can fire another signal when needed.

Further testing showed that MmTX binds to GABA(A) receptors more tightly than any other compound known — 100 times tighter than the plant-derived compound PTX, for example. MmTX also binds to a unique site on the GABA(A) receptor protein.

Binding at that site changes the receptor's shape, making it far too sensitive to GABA molecules.

When GABA binds, the receptor's pore opens permanently and the nerve cell is never able to reset, causing it to misfire, convulsing the animal and potentially causing death.

“Anti-anxiety medications diazepam and alprazolam bind to GABA(A) receptors too, but they cause relaxation instead of seizures because they bind much more loosely,” says Bosmans.

His team plans to use MmTX as a tool for learning more about how GABA(A) receptors work.

Since errors in the receptors can cause epilepsy, schizophrenia and chronic pain, the team hopes that their future work will be able to shed light on these and other disorders.

Other authors of the report include Jean-Pierre Rosso, Brigitte Ceard and Pierre Bougis of Aix Marseille University in France; Jurgen Schwarz and Matthias Kneussel of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany; Marcelo Diaz-Bustamante of The Johns Hopkins University; Maria Gutierrex of the Universidad de Costa Rica; and Olaf Pongs of the Universitat des Saarlandes in Germany.

This work was supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

make a difference: sponsored opportunity

Story Source:

Materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jean-Pierre Rosso, Jürgen R. Schwarz, Marcelo Diaz-Bustamante, Brigitte Céard, José M. Gutiérrez, Matthias Kneussel, Olaf Pongs, Frank Bosmans, and Pierre E. Bougis. MmTX1 and MmTX2 from coral snake venom potently modulate GABAA receptor activity. PNAS, February 9, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1415488112

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150209161139.htm

SNAKE VENOM USED IN MEDICINE DEVELOPMENT – JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

Snake Bites | Johns Hopkins Medicine

By The News-Letter on February 14, 2013

The snake — the very creature considered a devil by some religions, feared as a resurrecting deity by ancient Egyptians and a cause for panic throughout the world — might just have a shot at public redemption.

Here in Maryland, only two to six people a year are bitten by snakes, and these bites rarely result in death. However, the thought of what a snake’s deadly toxins can do in minutes still sends chills down our spines. But what if we were told that snakes held the cure to heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis or even cancer?

Snake venom varies in each of the 3,150 registered snake species worldwide. Within these types of venom, even more toxic proteins, peptides and molecules exist.

The most potent of these toxins belongs to a group of around 600 species whose venom is known to be dangerous to humans. However, smaller traces of venom are also present in the wider group of 3,000 or so species of snakes.

These lesser-known toxins have their own unique and valuable biochemical properties.

In general, venom targets two major body functions: the neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems, although many variations and exceptions exists. Since these systems are often implicated in many human diseases and conditions, venom makes an ideal drug template for human exploitation.

Already, different animal venoms have taken part in at least 10 different medications, a number that is certain to grow as research and clinical trials continue.

“An estimated 20 million toxins in well more than 100,000 venomous animal species exist in nature,” Zoltan Takacs, pharmacologist and founder of the World Toxin Bank, said.

“Science has only studied about 1,000 toxins in depth, yet we have major life-saving, best-selling, and first-in-a-class pioneer medications originating from toxins. It is a goldmine for medicine.”

After earning a Ph.D. from Columbia in evolutionary studies on cobra venom resistance, and serving on the University of Chicago faculty, Takacs is taking the toxin-tweaking to a different level.

He now travels the world in search of snakes and other venomous creatures, collecting their tissues for toxin RNA and DNA, and assembling toxin libraries for drug discovery. Takacs founded the World Toxin Bank project in an effort to single out the best of toxins for medicinal development.

The toxin libraries offer the opportunity to isolate those toxin candidates that have the most desirable effect on pharmaceutical targets.

“We are expanding on our Designer Toxins technology — a constantly growing library of natural animal toxins and their combinatorial variants that are screened against a target of interest…” Takacs said. “The beauty of this is that variants in the library are biased toward the target to start with, and can handle thousand to millions of toxin variants at once.”

From these findings, it has become easier to search for the particular chemicals needed for a specific reaction. Toxins in snakes have been around since before they became apparent in potent venoms.

They used to fulfill other, non-toxic physiological functions. In fact, snakes’ ability to revert their toxins back into harmless molecules is one of the empowering characteristics useful in the treatment of diseases cancer.

Integrin antagonists contortrostatin, which can block a bond between cells and tissue, are found in some snake venom and can revert one of cancer’s invasive mechanisms to stop cells form migrating. Thus, metastasis, one of the major complications of cancer, is prevented. Takacs envisioned the most important direction the work would take with unlimited funding.

“[We would] protect the world’s habitats and species, while making all toxins available for research, drug discovery and bioengineering. These are some of the coolest and most valuable molecules that nature produced, and if we´re not acting in time we may loose the wisdom they hold.

” Unfortunately, the negative image snakes currently hold has hindered the possibilities of conservation. With snake species becoming endangered by the day, potential drugs will proportionally begin dissipating as well.

If public redemption became a possibility through education, snakes might just live to partake in medical breakthroughs addressing the world’s greatest health obstacles.

View original article resource >>

Source: https://bioven.org/snake-venom-used-in-medicine-development-johns-hopkins-university/