Human Antibody Capable of Neutralizing the King Cobra Venom

A global consortium of scientists, including researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), has engineered a synthetic human antibody capable of neutralizing the neurotoxins produced by the Elapidae family of highly venomous snakes.

Elapidae, a family of venomous snakes encompassing species such as the cobra, king cobra, krait, and black mamba, is recognized for its highly potent venom and typically features short, immovable fangs at the front of the mouth.

The research team employed a methodology akin to antibody screening for HIV and Covid-19 to identify the human antibody. They are optimistic that this breakthrough will advance the development of a universal antibody solution against various snake venoms.

“This marks the first instance of applying this specific strategy to develop antibodies for snakebite treatment,” states Senji Laxme RR, a PhD student at EVL, CES, and co-first author of the study.

The findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, demonstrate that the antibody conferred protection against envenoming in mice by mimicking the binding process between the toxins and their receptors.

Snakebites continue to pose a significant threat worldwide, particularly in regions such as India and sub-Saharan Africa, where thousands succumb to the venomous bite annually.

“These animals are exposed to various bacteria and viruses throughout their lives. Consequently, antivenoms also contain antibodies against microorganisms, which are medically unnecessary. Research indicates that less than 10% of an antivenom vial consists of antibodies specifically targeted at snake venom toxins,” elaborated Kartik Sunagar, Associate Professor at CES and co-author of the study.

The newly developed antibody focuses on a conserved region located within the core of a major toxin known as the three-finger toxin (3FTx) found in elapid venom.