Researchers from Indian Institutes of Technology, Delhi have developed, in collaboration with San Jose University in the US, an antivenom using an artificially designed peptide that effectively neutralizes the poison of several snakes, including the four common in India — Indian cobra, common krait, Russell’s viper and saw-scaled viper.
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) students has produced what could be a cheaper and more effective solution for neutralizing the toxic effect of snake venom. The antivenom currently in use is a serum derived from horses immunized with snake venom. It is used against all four venomous snakes and costs around Rs 500 per vial. With the new anti-venom, IIT Delhi is aiming for a cost of $1 (about Rs 70) per dose. In India, an estimated 2.8 million people are bitten by snakes and 46,900 dies of snakebite every year.
Anurag Rathore, Researcher, IITD said, “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 the mice model and the other two are underway.’
He added, “Purification of peptides offers unique challenges with respect to obtaining the desired process yield and selectivity. Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Factor (LTNF) is a peptide that is known to neutralize snake venom. A process for producing highly purified recombinant LTNF has been developed.”
Snakebite has been a neglected disease for decades until the World Health Organization (WHO) included it in the list of tropical neglected diseases in 2009. Researchers at IIT Delhi have developed a process to manufacture LTNF using recombinant DNA technology and has filed for a patent for the same.
The product has shown efficacy against rattlesnake and viper venoms and is undergoing further testing. If successful, LTNF based therapy will offer a more cost-effective as well as stable substitute for currently available anti-venoms against snakebite.
“Snakebite can cause tissue necrosis, severe hemorrhaging, paralysis, heart failure, and other significant effects depending on the type of snake and severity of the bite. The estimated number of snake bites around the world is as high as 1.84 resulting in the death of more than 1 million people every year. More than a lakh die every year in India,” he said.
“There was a dire need for designing a process for manufacturing anti-venom that is cheaper and more effective. Current anti-venoms are produced in livestock, and the resulting anti-venom products can cause allergenic reactions in patients,” he a.dded.
Dr YK Gupta, former head of the department of pharmacology, AIIMS runs the National Poison Centre.
He said, “If the single molecule negates the effect of multiple venoms, it is a very important discovery. The serums in the market contain traces of all four venoms and carry the inherent possibility of a reaction to venoms other than the one against which it is needed.”