How Is Snake Antivenom Made?
Once the venomous snakes have been milked at the Australian Reptile Park and the venom freeze-dried, it is then sent to Seqiris in Melbourne to be made into antivenom.
The process at Seqiris starts with the snake venom being injected into Percheron horses. Over 250 horses take part in the antivenom program, all living the life of luxury. They undergo minimal stress during the inoculation and extraction processes. Inoculation is harmless for the horses and extraction is as simple as donating blood for humans.
The horses are given increasing doses of venom over a period of six-months, until they have built up sufficient antibodies to the venom. Blood is then drawn from the horse with the antibodies extracted from the blood, purified and reduced to a usable form – this becomes antivenom.
This antivenom is used to treat humans suffering from snake envenomation. Antivenom is injected into the human bloodstream, with the antibodies attacking the venom, neutralising its effects. The dose of antivenom given to a patient varies according to the species responsible for the bite and, when it can be ascertained, the amount of venom injected. The age and weight of the victim makes no difference to the dose of antivenom required in the treatment.
Information About Snake Venom
Snake venom is a highly developed form of saliva, injected by the snake into its victim through hollow, modified fangs. The base of a functioning fang, and often the first reserve fang behind it as well, is penetrated by a duct that leads from a large gland behind the eye. These glands, one on either side of the head, are modified salivary glands surrounded by muscle which, when contracted, forces the venom along the venom ducts and down through the fangs, squirting out under pressure as if from a pair of hypodermic needles. Venom may be injected may be injected in one or multiple but however, venom is not always injected as the snake has total control over amount of venom injected.
The venom of each species is unique, consisting of a combination of complex proteins, which act on the prey or bite victim in various ways. In most dangerous Australian species, the most significant action of the venom lies in its effect upon the victim’s nervous system, hindering the operation of muscles and causing paralysis that can lead to death from heart failure. Other components present in the venoms of certain species act to destroy blood cells, to cause blood clots or excessive bleeding, or to destroy tissue.