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Synthetic antibody could be key to a universal antivenom

Date: 21.2.2024 

Scientists have made a synthetic antibody that can prevent paralysis and death inflicted by the venom of elapids, a large family of mostly deadly snakes found around the world. The discovery has us slithering ever closer to developing a single, universal antivenom that could protect us against all venomous snakes.

Kredit: XLerate, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.Australia, Asia, and Africa, in particular, are home to many deadly snakes. Snakebite envenoming, the disease caused by toxins in the bite of a venomous snake, is estimated to take up to 138,000 lives each year and leaves an additional 400,000 or more people with permanent disabilities.

Now, Scripps Research scientists have identified an antibody that can block the lethal effects of a major toxin produced by a number of snake species found in these countries.

“This antibody works against one of the major toxins found across numerous snake species that contribute to tens of thousands of deaths every year,” said Joseph Jardine, one of the corresponding authors of the study into the antibody-based antivenom. “This could be incredibly valuable for people in low- and middle-income countries that have the largest burden of deaths and injuries from snakebites.”

The researchers inserted the genes for 16 different 3FTx into mammalian cells, which then produced toxins in the lab. Referring to a library of over 50 billion synthetic human antibodies, they tested which ones bound to the protein from the many-banded krait, aka the Chinese or Taiwanese krait, which had the most similarities to other 3FTx proteins.

That narrowed their search to about 3,800 antibodies, which were tested to see whether they recognized four other 3FTx variants. Thirty did. Of those 30, the one with the strongest interactions across all variants was an antibody called 95Mat5. Because 95Mat5 is a synthetic (monoclonal) antibody, neither donor animals nor snakes are required to produce an antivenom.

Image source: XLerate, Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0.





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