Deadly snake venom can be turned into life-saving therapeutics. Currently, several medicinal agents approved by the US Food and Drug Administration originated from snake venom. These include captopril, used to treat high blood pressure, as well as eptifibatide and tirofiban, used as bloodthinning agents to prevent thrombosis (clotting of blood in the circulation). Many other snake venom toxins have also been made into reagents that help to diagnose different kinds of blood disorders. Here, we discuss the molecular basis of how snake venom affects components in blood to unveil secrets behind the deadly weapon that can be harnessed for its power of healing.
Snakes have fascinated mankind since prehistoric times. They have been the symbol of love and hate, war and peace, good and evil, god and devil, and life and death; oftentimes they have been contradictory symbols within the same civilization. They are one of the few living organisms which evoke a response – positive or negative – when one hears a hissing from a snake or a rattling sound from a rattlesnake or even a mere mention of the word ‘snake’. Their mystical serpentine movement – a canonical feature of these unusual limbless organisms – makes one's skin crawl. Above all, the intense fascination probably arises from their deadly venoms, which when injected into the victim lead to death of even the healthiest individuals. Numbers of victims who succumb to snakebite range from 60000 to 100000 per year in the 21st Century 1 .