By Manu Moudgil

Published on 3, March, 2018 

In India, an estimated 50,000 people die of snake bites every year and many don’t even make it to a hospital. In traditional systems of medicine, over 350 plant species have been identified as antidotes to snake venom but there are very few scientific studies validating their efficacy and mode of action at molecular level. 

Now researchers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) and University College, Thiruvananthapuram, have successfully used extracts from Bael tree (Agele Marmelos) to neutralize adverse effects of cobra venom, thus confirming what was known to traditional healers.

The research team found that the extracts inhibited destruction of red blood cells and action of acetylcholinesterase blockers induced by the venom. Acetylcholinesterase blockers prevent muscle contraction of ribs and chest making breathing difficult, a major reason for instantaneous death due to cobra bite. The extracts also reduced abnormal breakdown of proteins by the venom. 

Bael, also known as Bengal Quince, can be found throughout Indian subcontinent and south east Asia. Scientists evaluated extracts of leaves, bark and roots of the tree in laboratory and then used computer-based studies to identify molecules in these extracts that attach to venom proteins and can aid detoxification. 

“Snake venom consists of innumerable biologically active molecules. Its individual constituents, quality and quantity are unstable and unpredictable. Similarly, the plant extract contains a plethora of chemical constituents which are not always stable but their synergistic effect can neutralize multi toxicity,” explained Dr S Sreekumar, a member of the research team while talking to India Science Wire.

The results of interaction between 81 phytochemicals from Bael and each of the 14 venom proteins revealed that the plant contains potential molecules for detoxification of all cobra venom proteins. However, of the 12 selected molecules, three failed the drug likeness test. 

“This is a good beginning but the study is in vitro. They have to prove its efficacy through tests in human beings and then arrive at exact amount of plant extract that will serve the purpose. It is a very tedious process,” commented Dr H.S. Bawaskar, an expert on snake and scorpion bites at Maharashtra-based Bawaskar Hospital and Research Centre, who is not connected with the study.

The research team is planning to take up this challenge in the next phase and develop a formulation that can be effective against four common venomous snake species of India. “We have already screened 60 plant species used in traditional medicine of which only four were found to effectively neutralize all toxic venom components. Bael is one of them. Once the screening process is complete, we will develop a standard formulation that not only works for all venoms but also leads to fewer or no side effects,” said Dr Sreekumar.

In modern medicine, use of anti-venom serum is the only method to treat snake bites but it comes with risk of various complications, including anaphylactic shock, pyrogen reaction and serum sickness. The serum is manufactured by injecting horses with safe levels of venoms. The antibodies they produce to fight off the venom are extracted from their blood and developed into the serum.  

A big issue with this method is variation in amount of venom in a snake from region to region. An anti-venom prepared from a snake at one location loses its effectiveness when used at another site. “We need to decentralise anti-venom production to overcome geographical variation in snake venom,” said Dr Bavaskar. Some efforts are on to collect snake venoms from different regions to develop an antidote that can work pan India. 

(This is from a syndicated feed from India Science Wire)


Adulteration Aged care AIDS ambulances and emergency care birth deliveries blood banks Budget Cancer Cancer cases in India Cancer in South Korea cataract cervical cancer China Cholera disease in India Communicable diseases Comparison of India in Government Health Expenditure Dental Colleges in India Dentist Diabetes Diabetes in Asia Diabetes in India Disease in eastern states of India Diseases Doctors Domestic General Government Health Expenditure Drinking water Expenditure Fertility rate Food adulteration Food testing labs Funds GGHE-D per Capita in India Global Data Government Medical Colleges H1N1 Health Expense Report Health Infrastructure Health Survey Healthcare Education Hepatitis HIV Hospitals Immunisation Immunization coverage Infrastructure Inoculation Insurance Kala Azar disease Life expectancy Maternal health maternal mortality Medical education Medical Research Mental Health Data Milk Adulteration National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization National Organ Transplant Programme non-communicable diseases NOTTO Organ Donation Organ Transplant Palliative care Pharma PMSSY Medical Colleges Polio Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana Public Health Rabies Rabies deaths Registered Dental doctors Registered Doctors with State Dental Council Road Accidents RTI Data Sanitation Sex Ratio Smart Cities Snake bite State Health Expenditure Report in India Suicide rate in Asia Suicide rate in India Technology Tuberculosis Tuberculosis disease in asia Tuberculosis in India Typhoid Vaccination Vector-borne Diseases water borne diseases