APR 19, 2016 9:10 AM PDT

What Makes Snake Venom so Lethal?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Crippling fear of snakes, called ophidiophobia, affects nearly a third of adult humans. This makes it the most commonly reported phobia. Although snakes are limbless creatures with limited mobility, they have evolved to produce highly toxic venoms that can kill preys many times their size.

Similar to other natural toxins, snake venom is a deadly concoction of proteins and peptides that interfere with the prey's body response. Scientists divide snake venom into four main types: hemotoxic, cytotoxic, neurotoxic, and proteolytic. But in reality, most snakes can make venom that's a combination of these pathways.

Given its deadly effects, it's hard to believe that snake venom can actually be of great use in medicine. As it turns out, some of the most active components of toxins affect the same enzymes and pathways in certain diseases. Aside from yielding the key chemical compound, toxins also lead scientists to better understand how certain diseases work, what pathways are affected, and what proteins may be curative.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Reprogramming Virus to Build Better Li-ion Batteries
SEP 10, 2020
Reprogramming Virus to Build Better Li-ion Batteries
There's no doubt that the word "virus" is currently on everyone's mind. However, there's a lot mor ...
SEP 11, 2020
Health & Medicine
Trans Fat Regulations Protect Three Billion People Worldwide
SEP 11, 2020
Trans Fat Regulations Protect Three Billion People Worldwide
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a progress report on its five-year initiative for the global elimi ...
OCT 09, 2020
Plants & Animals
Humpback Whales Thriving in NYC Waters
OCT 09, 2020
Humpback Whales Thriving in NYC Waters
Over the past decade, humpback whales have become increasingly common in waters known as the New York-New Jersey Bight. ...
DEC 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
DEC 28, 2020
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
China has recovered the first new moon rock samples in decades, and from a previously unexplored part of the moon. Now w ...
JAN 13, 2021
Plants & Animals
Dwarf Giraffes Observed for the First Time Ever
JAN 13, 2021
Dwarf Giraffes Observed for the First Time Ever
The name “dwarf giraffe” certainly seems like an oxymoron, which is why scientists were shocked to observe t ...
APR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Celebrating National Pet Day
APR 09, 2021
Celebrating National Pet Day
Sunday, April 11, is National Pet Day! From pandemic companions to viral videos, pets are a huge part of our lives. Even ...
Loading Comments...