There are three different types of snake venom: hemotoxin which affects blood, neurotoxin which affects your nervous system, and cytotoxin which affects your muscles.
To develop antivenom, we need to first understand how venom works.
I recently watched a video that features a Russell's viper, one of the most feared snakes in Asia. Its venom is hemotoxic, and the video shows how it affects human blood.
The video shows a wrangler milks the venom, which is then mixed with a glass of blood.
|Look at the fangs!|
Within seconds, the blood clots into some form of jelly-ish solid matter.
According to wikipedia,
The coagulant in the venom directly activates factor X, which turns prothrombin into thrombin (that causes coagulation) in the presence of factor V and phospholipid.
In the dRVVT (dilute Russell's viper venom time) assay, low, rate-limiting concentrations of both Russell's viper venom and phospholipid are used to give a standard clotting time of 23 to 27 seconds.
If diluted Russell's viper venom could induce blood coagulation in 23 seconds, imagine the time needed to clot your blood if you're injected with pure viper venom. 5~6 seconds?
Of course, blood clotting is just one of the many symptoms of viper bite. You would get necrosis (death of cells) near the bite, low blood pressure, vomiting, facial swelling, and kidney failure. Death would soon follow if untreated.
|Necrosis from a Rattle Snake bite. Image: rattlesnakebite.org|
I now have a new found respect for vipers.