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Researchers identify protein that counteracts key rattlesnake venom toxins

Date: 23.1.2023 

Venomous snakes cause an estimated 120,000 deaths and 400,000 disabling injuries worldwide each year, with approximately 8,000 snake bite cases in the United States alone.

Kredit: Matt Giorgianni.To reduce and mitigate the severity of venomous snake bites, a team of University of Maryland biologists launched an investigation into the genome of the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), a species with more venom toxins encoded in its genome than any other known rattlesnake. The team pinpointed a single protein – called FETUA-3 – that inhibits a broad spectrum of rattlesnake venom toxins.

"A good snakebite treatment needs to be able to counteract the venoms of more than just one species of snake," said the study's senior author Sean Carroll, a Distinguished University Professor of Biology at UMD and vice president for science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

"FETUA-3 inhibited a huge number of toxins – over 20 – that we detected and even bound to and inhibited the toxins of venoms from several other rattlesnakes we tested. We'll need to learn more about how broadly FETUA-3 can be applied or if it'll need some additional tinkering but knowing that this one protein can neutralize an entire class of toxins brings researchers even closer to creating a better anti-venom."

Image source: Matt Giorgianni.





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