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Jun 5, 2009

Snake Venom

Did you know...
that kids ask the most unusual questions about everything, and
most of the time we adults can't answer the question because we just don't know what the answer is. Here is some questions kids asked that I didn't know so if you have the correct answer I will be happy to hear it.

1.How can a poisonous snake hold venom in its body without poisoning

2.Will this snakes venom kill another snake of the same species if it gets bitten?

Then came some I could answer but the students thought I was just making it up
so I wouldn't look too stupid.

4 Where do we get the anti-venom used in hospitals for snake bites on humans?
From horses...I went on to explain.

Antivenom has been around for at least 100 years, but the techniques of producing antivenom have not really altered during this time. What normally happens is a very large animal is immunized over a long time with very small amounts of snake venom, so it won’t harm the animal; traditionally they have used horses.

So what they do is milk the snake,they hold its head and force the fangs over the edge then add pressure to get the venom to drip out into a glass vile then take a very little amount of the venom and inject that into the horse.

In very small quantities, so the horse will not be affected at all, it’s only a tiny amount. The horse will then raise antibodies against this antigen that’s been injected in the same way that humans immunize themselves against smallpox.

Over a period of time, about eight months or so, the horse will then become hyper-immune. Every so often, some serum is then drawn from the horse and immunoglobulins are purified from that, and from that you can split the immunoglobulins into smaller components. These would then be infused intravenously to a person who has been bitten by a poisonous snake.

5. Do all snakes lay eggs?
No, some give birth to live snakelets.
Pigmy rattlesnakes are just one example of a snake that gives birth to live snakelet, Another name for newly born snakes is a neonate which simply means a newly-born snake. Finally there is the broadly accepted term: hatchling (which would be a newly-hatched snake)This applies to snakes born from eggs.

CORRECTION: They no longer use horses to produce the antivenom.
They now use sheep to produce the serum. Sheep serum is not as likely to
cause allergies. This was brought to my attention by Angie Malone.
Thanks Angie for your expertise.
Read more here http://www.snakebitenews.com/html/releases/1_31_01.html


Angie Malone said...

The snake antivenom used in the US today is no longer produced from horses. It's now developed from sheep serum. This has greatly reduced the risk of allergic reation. See the press release from 2001: http://www.snakebitenews.com/html/releases/1_31_01.html The only competitor has since ceased production.

Shirley said...

Thanks Angie for the update on the anti venom. So things have changed.
I will make a correction on this post.
The kids actually thought they injected the venom into humans. I haven't the foggiest idea where they got that from.

LissaMe said...

those were good questions from the kids, and I didnt know antivenom came from horses.. I assumed other snakes or plants. I learned something new.. THanks