Utilising snake endogenous toxin inhibitors for the development of improved antivenom treatments


  • Dr Adam Hargreaves

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Bites by venomous snakes result in over 90,000 deaths annually, predominantly in regions affected by poverty. The only effective treatment is antivenom, which currently has several drawbacks: production is expensive, it is not always effective, and it can sometimes cause life-threatening immune responses. A key cause of these issues is that current manufacturing methods rely on injecting extracted venom into large animals, usually horses, and extracting and purifying the antibodies the horse produces to combat the toxic effects. However, snakes are completely resistant to their venom as they produce inhibitors to protect themselves.

This project aims to explore the use of snake inhibitors as antivenom components and to make steps towards developing a new method of production. This will involve identifying the toxins expressed in venom and the inhibitors expressed in body tissues. Once identified, candidate inhibitor proteins will be produced using human cell lines, requiring no live animals and possibly reducing the risk of immune reactions in patients. Experiments will then be carried out to test the effectiveness of these proteins in neutralising key effects of venoms which cause death.

This could revolutionise how antivenoms are produced by providing a method to make targeted, more cost-effective treatments.