DNA Left In Snakebites Could Speed Treatment

Nov 9, 2014

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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3 comments on “DNA Left In Snakebites Could Speed Treatment

  • Right now, the research is still in the proof-of-concept stage. Actually using the method in treatment is still a ways away, but the researchers hope that eventually they will be able to develop easy-to-use DNA tests that can identify the slithering culprit within 30 minutes of the wound being swabbed.

    Inchoate, my dear Watson.

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  • 3
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Yes but in the case of a bite from snakes with really fast acting venom like Black Mambas or King Cobras, 30 minutes may not be quick enough to save the patient’s life. There’s also the size and weight of the bite victim to consider. A small child can be killed more quickly with the same quantity of venom than a full grown adult.

    And not negligibly, 30 minutes is a heck of a long time when you’re in agonizing pain compounded with the fear of death. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great scientific breakthrough but the 30 minute delay needs to be shortened.

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