Universal Antivenom For Snakebites Actually Possible

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published


A groundbreaking discovery in the realm of snakebite treatment may soon revolutionize the way venomous snake bites are managed globally. Researchers have announced significant progress toward the development of a universal antivenom, a medical breakthrough poised to save countless lives and alleviate the suffering of snakebite survivors worldwide.

Non-Species Dependant Antivenom

snake murder weapon

Published in Science Translational Medicine, the research outlines the creation of a laboratory-made antibody known as 95Mat5, capable of neutralizing neurotoxins found in the venom of numerous snake species across diverse regions. This development marks a crucial step forward in the quest for a universal antivenom that can counteract the effects of venom from any venomous snake. Up until now, antivenom was snake-specific, which meant that a victim of a snakebite had to not only know what type of snake bit them (which they rarely do) but also hope the hospital had antivenom for that type of snake on hand.

A Worldwide Problem

king cobra snake

Snakebites exact a devastating toll, claiming as many as 138,000 lives annually and leaving many more victims with life-altering injuries and psychological trauma. Children and farmers are particularly vulnerable, and they often encounter venomous snakes in their daily lives. The development of a universal antivenom could drastically lower these numbers and save countless lives.

Antivenom From A Horse

Leonardo DiCaprio snake

Traditional antivenoms face more shortcomings than being species-specific, and unlike the lab-made universal antivenom, traditional antivenoms are often derived from horse antibodies. They’re developed by injecting horses with snake venom and then retrieving the antibodies the horses create to fight the venom. While this process has been used for over a hundred years, it can cause severe side effects in human recipients due to immune reactions against foreign horse proteins.

Neutralizes Neurotoxin

snake snakes

The newly developed laboratory-made antibody offers a promising alternative. Through extensive screening of over 50 billion unique antibodies, researchers identified 95Mat5 as capable of recognizing and neutralizing key neurotoxins present in the venoms of various deadly snake species. In experimental trials with mice injected with lethal doses of venom, 95Mat5 effectively prevented paralysis and death across all venom types tested, proving it to be a potential universal antivenom.

Multiple Toxins In One Bite

deadly snake

However, the journey toward a universal antivenom is far from over. While 95Mat5 addresses neurotoxins, other venom components, such as haemotoxins and cytotoxins, pose additional challenges. To achieve comprehensive protection against the diverse array of snake venoms, researchers must identify additional antibodies capable of neutralizing these toxins.

A Long Road Ahead


Despite the promising strides, significant hurdles remain. The process of identifying, testing, and manufacturing antibodies for multiple venom toxins is time-consuming and resource-intensive. Furthermore, ensuring the safety and efficacy of lab-made universal antivenoms in human trials is essential, a process that could extend over many years.

The Logistics Of Snakebites

snake python

Practical considerations also loom large. The potential need for refrigeration to maintain the universal antivenom effectiveness poses logistical challenges in regions with limited access to reliable electricity, which also happens to be where snakebites are most prevalent.

An Expensive Treatment

snake zebra cobra

Moreover, the affordability of a universal antivenom remains uncertain. These treatments are among the most expensive drugs globally, raising concerns about accessibility for snakebite victims who may not be able to afford the life-saving medicine.

While the path to universal antivenom may have some kinks to work out, the promise of a single antidote capable of thwarting the deadliest snake venoms is a transformative advance in global public health.