Research partners in SRPNTS are developing next-generation snakebite therapies against the most pathogenic toxin targets of medically important snakes in Africa and India. These snakes include haemotoxic vipers such as Saw-scaled vipers (Echis spp.), Puff adders (Bitis arietans), Gaboon vipers (Bitis gabonica) and neurotoxic elapids such as the Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) and several spitting and non-spitting cobras (Naja spp.).
The puff adder is Africa’s largest viper, typically between 0.7m to 1.20m in length. This nocturnal terrestrial viper is commonly found in rocky grasslands throughout sub-Saharan Africa except for heavily forested regions. Due to their wide distribution, distinctive patterning (camouflage), and aggressive disposition, people are commonly bitten. Bites with their cytotoxic venom result in severe pain, swelling, blistering, and localized necrosis, which can lead to permanent damage and death.
The Black Mamba is Africa’s longest venomous snake, typically 2.2m to 2.7m in length. This snake inhabits a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa, with adults usually being olive, brownish, yellow-brown, or grey. They are a fast-moving, diurnal predator, comfortable on the ground and in trees. Their neurotoxic venom causes rapid paralysis with a yield many times the lethal dose for a human. Any bites will require rapid treatment in an advanced hospital with antivenom and respiratory support.
One of the deadliest snakes in South Asia, the Spectacled Cobra is found throughout the Indian sub-continent and varies considerably in pattern and color throughout its range. Typically 1.0m to 1.5m in length, this cobra is recognized by its large, impressive hood, which it expands when threatened in order to appear larger. They have extremely potent neurotoxic venom, and symptoms may manifest between 15 minutes to two hours following a bite.
The saw-scaled or carpet viper is a small viper found throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East, and India. This fast-moving and nocturnal predator is typically found in near-desert environments, seeking shelter under rocks, logs, and brush piles during the day. These snakes cause one of the largest numbers of envenomings and snakebite deaths due to their high abundance and frequent contact with individuals living in rural settings. Their hemotoxic and cytotoxic venom results in pain, blistering, and generalised bleeding.
Red Spitting Cobra
The Red Spitting Cobra is a medium-sized cobra typically between 0.7m to 1.2m in length, distributed throughout East Africa in savanna and semi-desert areas. This cobra is usually found near watering holes while sheltering in tree trunks, ravines, deep heaps of leaves, or deep grass during the day. This species will either spit or inject its neurotoxic and cytotoxic venom during a bite. Although it rarely causes human fatalities, survivors are usually disfigured.
The Gaboon Viper has a large, flat head and distinctive geometric patterning, typically 0.90m to 1.50m in length. They are slow-moving, placid, nocturnal ambush hunters found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, most commonly in forested areas. Bites are rare due to the placid nature of the snake, though the venom is deadly when bites occur. Bites result in systemic bleeding, swelling, blisters, necrosis, and cardiovascular abnormalities.
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