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.
- 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.
- The current procedure for preparing anti-venom is over 100 years old and is outdated.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.