Most of us are aware of the term venom or snake venom. It can be simply termed as the saliva of snake which consists a wide range of chemicals ad majority of them is the toxins. And these toxins are known as zootoxins because their primary purpose is to paralyze an animal which is the prey of snake.
Venom of a snake helps him catch the prey in a way that it paralyzes either partially or completely the working of the body of the prey. For instance, sometimes it causes coagulation of blood which can cause instant death of the prey.
And other times, it interacts with the nervous system of prey and makes is non functional. It does so by either inflicting a shock of high intensity or by causing cerebral hemorrhage. In this way, the prey is unable to escape the grip of snake.
Apart from these functions of venom, it can also play a key role in curing various diseases in humans which were not possible to be treated otherwise. And it is possible just because of the presence of certain proteins and chemical compounds in snake venom.
The detailed explanation regarding working of venom is given below.
How does it work on prey?
As mentioned above, the first and the most basic function a venom snake avails from its venom is the paralyzing of prey. Before knowing it, we need to understand the mechanism of injection of the venom.
Snake Venom storage:
There are two venom glands in the head of snake. And their location, being more precise, is just on the back side of the snake’s eyes. And they are located slightly lower than the level of eyes. These glands are actually are parallel to the salivary glands of other vertebrates and are thought to be modified form of the salivary glands.
The venom of snake is stored in these glands till secretion. And it is the muscular bag or layer around each of these glands that makes the secretion of venom possible while predating.
The tubes or ducts connect each of the two glands with respective fang. There’s are two fangs, each connected to one of the glands. Fangs have a needle like structure and make the passage of venom possible during snake bite.
Whenever a snake bites his prey, after piercing the fangs, it presses the glands through muscular sheath around them. The pressure from muscles presses the glands and the venom gets injected into the body of the prey via two needled ended fangs.
The thing that makes the venom highly toxic is the presence of around twenty different chemicals and even more than that. Some of these chemical compounds are polypeptides, while others are proteins. However, some enzymes are also there.
It is the particular type of protein present in the venom that interacts with the organs and organ system of prey and makes him paralyzed. What these proteins do to the prey’s body includes coagulation of blood, impaired nerve impulse transmission, cerebral hemorrhage and etc.
How is toxicity level of Snake venom determined?
The toxicity level or in other words, potency of the venoms is determined through a test named as median lethal dose. And it is denoted by LD 50. The term LD 50 stands for “Lethal dose” 50 percent. The word 50 percent is added to this term just because what this test finds out or determines is the amount of the venom under observation required to kill 50 percent of the total test population.
Using this test, the potency of any snake’s venom can be easily determined. It is common perception about the snakes that those belonging to the same species have same venom potency level. However, it’s not like that. Even the snakes of same species may have different toxicity level of venom.
The thing that affects the toxicity level of a snake’s venom is the area or region of its inhabitance. And this factor is more prominent and evident in the snakes having forest or wild as their habitat. The snakes living or inhabiting in some areas may have higher venom potency than those of other regions or areas.
Different biting mechanisms:
Though, we explained the mechanism of snake bite above in this article which includes the working of two venom glands, two needle ended fangs and muscular layer around the glands. But still there are some differences in the biting mechanism of different snake species.
Some of the snakes have quick mode of action and they have along fangs. While biting they strike in a quick manner and the release of venom is also instant. In other words we can say that while biting the snake doesn’t have to wait for injection of venom, rather it happens at the time of strike. The most considerable example of such bite is viper snake bite.
On the other hand, some other snake species do not have quick bite or injection mechanism. Instead of it, snakes belonging to them have to hold a little bit after bite, in order to accomplish the venom injection process.
Apart form the biting and injection of venom, some of the snake species also have a special feature of venom spitting. The most common and practical example of the snakes having spitting feature is the spitting Cobra. In order to facilitate the process of spotting, the fangs of spitting snakes are designed accordingly, thus extending the range of spitting up to 8 feet.
It should be kept in mind that the spitting of venom is exercised only when the snake is in aggressive mood. If someone irritates the spitting snakes, they hit directly aiming at the eyes if the target. And the stream of venom thus spitted can cause severe reaction causing instant vision loss and other related effects.
The effects and consequences of venom spitting can be avoided if quick action taken like removal of venom by running water in excess and etc. The effects of vision loss can also be overcome in this way. However, if not washed it removed quickly, the vision loss may become permanent.
How do components of venom affect the human body?
As told earlier in the article as well, that the venom is composed of different components. Each of these components affects the human body in a different way. The major toxins present in the venom of venom snake act on the human body in the following way.
Cytotoxins can be understood as a particular type of toxin that shows it’s effect by particularly attacking the body cells at cell level. These toxin can cause death of the body cells which is also termed as necrosis.
And it is noteworthy that these toxins most commonly affect the components of immune system like white blood cells or immune cells and etc.
This type of toxins show their effect in both types of nervous systems i-e CNS (Central nervous system) and PNS (peripheral nervous system). And what they do is just attack the neurons or nerve cells thus causing their death. As a result of which, the transmission of nerve impulse gets affected badly. And the coordination between the nervous system and body parts gets failed with the passage of time.
In short we can say that neurotoxins in venom can distort the functioning of brain and other parts of nervous system. And it may even result in cerebral hemorrhage as told above in the article.
Hemotoxins are the special type of toxins that act only on the blood cells and particularly the red blood cells. As we know that the red blood cells are carriers of oxygen from lungs to the whole body, we can say that the working of whole body is dependent upon these cells. Any damage to red blood cells can affect the working of the whole human body.
Apart from reducing the oxygen carrying capacity, hemotoxins are also responsible for the blood clotting and coagulation. In this way, they can also turn out to be a cause of cardiovascular diseases.
Not only this, but hemotoxins also play an important role in digestion of the prey after the getting it eaten by the snake.
Apart from toxins mentioned above, many other chemical compounds are also the part of snake venom. One of them is proteolytic venom component. The primary function performed by this type of components is to accomplish the tasks like break down of proteins, as their name shows.
We can say that proteolytic venom helps in the breakdown at molecular level in the body of prey. And the site of action for this component is the place of bite.
Treatment of diseases by snake venom:
If venom of venom snake can cause severe reactions and can be fatal for humans, at the same time it also proves to be the cure for a number of diseases as well. Some of the most commonly used and famous treatments that are accomplished through venom snake are as given below.
Cancer and tumor treatment:
The chemical compounds like phospholipases also known as phospholipases type 2 (PLA2s) are known to be the active components of venom that are found to be actively providing resistance against tumor production and cancerous symptoms. Therefore, they are used as a cure for certain cancerous diseases.
Working as antibiotic:
It is also found that they apart from giving anti cancer effects, they can also act as antibiotics. And it is proved from the fact that the phospholipase enzyme carries out the hydrolyzing of phospholipids. And we know that bacterial cell wall is mainly composed of phospholipids. In this way, these enzymes can break down the cells walls of bacteria causing their death.
Pain relieving capability:
Researches and studies have also revealed that some of the proteins present in the venom snake can cause pain relieving or pain killing effect. Therefore, there is probability that the said proteins could be used for the purpose of curing pains.
However, the only thing that hinders the use of venom snake proteins as pain relievers it the inability of delivery of these proteins to the nervous system. Because proteins can not be taken in the form of pills usually.
Anti venom treatments:
Surveys and researches have revealed that the plant or herbs based cure or treatment for the snake bite or venom has been used since ancient times. The plants or the products obtained from the plants were used at that time in the form of alcohol as well as olive oil based tinctures. And such plants were used to be kept and preserved in the alcohol based solutions in the flasks.
Following plants were had been used for the treatment or cure of venom snake.
Modern treatment for the venom snake was developed in the earlier twentieth century. In this technique the serum or anti venom of the snake from which the patient was infected, were prepared and administered into the patient’s body.
It must be kept in mind that there is particular anti venom for snake bite for every snake type or specie. And it may not work for another specie. It is also noteworthy that some of the individuals may develop immunity against some or any of the snake species, but it doesn’t mean that now they are immune to all venoms.
Therefore, one needs to be very careful in this regard in order to avoid any mishap. As a mishap due to misconception in this regard happened with a European person in the past who thought that he was immune against the snake he was bitten by, and died next day.
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