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A universal antidote against snake venom: we are one step away

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A universal antidote against snake venom: we are one step away

A universal antidote against snake venom is closer: researchers from the Scripps Research Institute, the biomedical research institute based in California, have developed an antibody that is able to block the effects of the lethal toxins present in snake venom. wide variety of snakes, including the famous black mamba, considered the most dangerous reptile in the world, and the king cobra. Tested in mice, it protected them not only from death but also from paralysis, as reported in the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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The antibody, however, does not work against viper venom: to develop a universal antidote, therefore, a cocktail composed of different antibodies will be needed. More than 100,000 people a year, mostly in Asia and Africa, die from snake bites, and currently available antidotes generally only work for a single species. The researchers coordinated by Joseph Jardine they drew inspiration from their previous studies carried out on vaccines against the HIV virus: they realized that, like HIV, snake toxins also have conserved regions that cannot mutate from one species to another, and that therefore they constitute ideal targets for a targeted antibody.

An important step forward

By comparing the proteins contained in the venoms of a wide variety of snakes, the study authors identified one called ‘three-finger toxin’, or 3FTx, which contains very similar portions between different species. Having found a good candidate, the researchers went on the hunt for human antibodies capable of binding to it among over 50 billion possibilities.
Narrowing the search to around 3,800 molecules, they found 30 that recognize more than one version of 3FTx and, among these, one in particular, called 95Mat5, stands out for its ability to bind very well to all those tested. The result therefore constitutes a very important step forward towards a universal antidote.

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