Snake Venom, For Handling Tropical Diseases

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Illustration of Snake – Herpetology (Photo: Special)

IF you see a snake, you will be scared (ophidiophobia) or maybe you won’t even think twice to kill it. But did you know that Indonesia has a high biodiversity rate in terms of snake different species? There are about 380 snake species we can find in this country; even eight percent of them are venomous and dangerous for human.

Behind the fact, however, snake venom actually has a hidden benefit. Snake venom is a chemical compound produced by a special gland in a number of certain snake species in order to kill preys and to survive.

Snake venom contains more than 20 different kinds of compound, most of them are protein. The latest research shows that snake venom can be used to deal with organisms which inflict problems, particularly tropical diseases. Unfortunately, there are only less than a few world life sciences researchers who are interested in doing a research on snake venom.

Tropical diseases are a sort of diseases which often infect an area with tropical or subtropical climate. There are three kinds of tropical diseases namely bacteria-borne infection, virus-borne infection, and parasite-borne infection.

Some examples for bacteria-borne infection are tuberculosis, tetanus, whooping cough, and others. Conformable with virus-borne infection are Zika, dengue fever, avian flu, and others. While parasite-borne infection take form of Chagas disease, malaria, leishmaniasis, and others.

A venomous snake bite can be lethal, except with an efficacious aid. However, biological components in snake venom have a significant therapeutic character. This makes snake venom has a good potential to eliminate organisms which inflict problems of tropical diseases in laboratory scale. The lack of effective vaccines as solutions for tropical diseases treatment nowadays is one of the supportive reasons that it is highly important to develop researches on snake venom in the future.

An in vitro research mentions that Naja atra snake venom peptides show activities in fighting multidrug-resistant tuberculosis or MDR-TB, a bacteria resistant to antimicrobial medicine given to treat the disease. MDR-TB does not response to two kinds of effective medicine for anti TB namely isoniazid and rifampicin.

Furthermore, Naja najaDaboia russelli, Bungarus fasciatus, and Naja kaouthia snake venom also show activities of anti MDR-TB so a further exploration is needed to find a more effective anti TB medicine. Bungarus fasciatus is a species of venomous snake from Elapidae family which is also one of the most dangerous and lethal snakes in Indonesia.

In Virology, a science studying virus, LAAO (L-Amino acid oxsidase) which is isolated from Bothrops jararaca snake venom shows activities as an antivirus for serotype 3 dengue virus. While Crotalus durissus terrificus snake venom is able to resist Measles virus replication and the venom does not have cytotoxicity character according to a laboratory-based research.

Moreover, immunokine compound, one of the α-toxin derivatives which is isolated from Naja siamensis snake venom, shows resistor power to lymphocyte infection by HIV and FIV virus. On the other hand, phospholipase A2 or PLA2 and 12 PLA2 derivatives peptides which are isolated from snake venom show activities as anti HIV.

Naja sumatranaBungarus candidusHydrophis cyanocinctus, and Oxyuranus candidus snake venom have an anti HIV character according to a laboratory-based research. Naja sumatrana is one of the most lethal cobra species in the world which we can find on Sumatera Island, Indonesia.

Crotoxin B which is isolated from Crotalus durissus cumanensis, shows activities in fighting Plasmodium falciparum which inflicts malaria. While whole venom from Naja hajeCerastes cerastesCrotalus viridisPhilodryas baroni, and Hypisglena torquata shows activities in fighting Trypanosoma cruzi (inflicts Chagas disease) and Leishmania spp (inflicts Leishmaniasis disease). Besides that, LAAO which is isolated from Lachesis muta, Bothrops atrox, and Bothrops moojeni snake venom are also able to fight Leishmania spp. and Trypanosoma cruzi.

On a laboratory-based research, snake venom has potential to be a medicine candidate to fight tropical disease agents namely bacteria, parasite, and virus. However, it is necessary to develop a further research to obtain direct benefit from clinical application.

This is supposed to be one of the privileges of doing life sciences researches in Indonesia compares to other countries. One reason for this is because Indonesia is rich in biodiversity, particularly in the genus of herpetofauna which includes venomous snakes. (*)

Editor: Bambang Bes

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Media komunikasi dan informasi seputar kampus Universitas Airlangga (Unair).

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