Credit: Russ Bowling
By Mary Beth Griggs
When bitten by a venemous snake, identifying the culprit before it slithers away can mean the difference between life and death. Knowing which snake bit a patient means doctors can treat her with the correct antivenom–but more often than not, that’s simply not possible.
“At present, the standard of practice is no identification at all, a diagnosis from the symptoms, or more rarely identification of dead snakes that victims occasionally bring to the clinic,” François Chappuis of Geneva University Hospitals in Switzerland told New Scientist. Luckily, Chappuis has a solution. When a snake bites into a victim, it leaves behind a little bit of DNA–Chappuis believes that by identifying the snake DNA (instead of relying on symptoms) doctors can treat their patients faster and more effectively. Chappuis presented his work at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting this week.
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