Indian Cobra Genome Sequenced

In News

A team of Indian researchers has sequenced the genome of highly venomous Indian Cobra. The efforts will go a long way in developing anti-venom medicines for snake bites.


  • Indian Cobra becomes the first of the four most venomous snakes of India, called the big four, to be genetically mapped.
  • Around 46,000 snakebite deaths every year in the country are due to the Indian cobra, the Common Krait, Russell’s viper and the saw-scaled viper.
  • While 5.4 million snakebite deaths occur in the world, 2.8 million of them occur in India.
  • They account for 4,00,000 disabilities globally, of which 1,38,000 are from India.
  • The research was conducted but scientists from the Chennai-based SciGenome Research Foundation (SGRF) in collaboration with scientists from US firm Genentech, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala and many from universities in the US and Singapore.

The Genome

  • Scientists have found that the Indian Cobra has 19 key toxin genes.
  • These are primarily expressed in the venom glands of the snake.
  • Scientists are of the view that targeting these toxins using antibodies will help develop a safe and effective anti-venom for treating cobra bites.
  • Also, they are of the view that if they could sequence the genes of the other three snakes and generate antibodies, it is possible to create a broad anti-venom for all the four snake bites.

Current Procedure

  • The current procedure for preparing anti-venom is over 100 years old and is outdated.
  • It involves immunising horses with extracted snake venom and then anti-venom is extracted.
  • This process is laborious and lacks consistency.
  • The efficacy of extracted anti-venom varies. 
  • With the sequencing of the Indian Cobra’s genome, using recombinant protein expression and synthetic antibody development technologies, modern anti-venom can be developed.
  • Venom essentially contains drug-like molecules. The Indian Cobra contains similar toxins that can reduce blood pressure, block pain and prevent blood clotting.
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