Snake Venom – Over the years we’ve had reports of snake bites disfiguring and putting people in sick beds, sometimes worse, killing people. These have made us react to snakes by creating a must kill snake ideology in our heads. So for every time we see a snake, the first thing that comes to our mind is Kill.
Venoms are usually had by animals (carnivores) that can’t use raw force or strength to kill their meal or prey. So they inject poisonous substances into their victim’s body by the aid of fangs to slowly kill their prey making it an easy meal.
Snake venom are highly modified saliva made of protein, enzymes, and some other toxic substances. Its main purpose as any other poison is to help in the immobilization and digestion of prey.
A snake will only bite what it wants to eat or what disturbs it to defend itself. It is recorded that out of over 3500 species of snakes worldwide only about 17% are venomous and dangerous to humans. Most snakebites that occur are from non-venomous snakes.
How to differentiate Between Venomous and Non-Venomous Snakes
Now, this not meant for you to try, just to learn some few basic tips and also note that this tips are only 70% correct. So if you get bitten by a snake, seek medical attention immediately. If you encounter a snake, do not attempt to kill, call on an expert to identify the snake.
- Most if not all venomous snakes have a distinct head, most times with a clear triangular shape. Most African snakes like the vipers always have pits that look like noses at the top. Non-venomous have the regular round or straight heads although they might flatten their head to look distinct just to frighten predators or people.
- Also, the pupils of venomous snakes are vertically thin and darkly colored. Non-venomous on the other hand have rounded pupils. This tip you can’t really decide on especially when you are far from the snake which you should be till an expert arrives.
- Although most snakes might flee when they see humans but most venomous snakes are always aggressive and bold when disturbed. So if you come across a snake that stands its ground like a puff adder or warns you like the rattlesnake, you should stay away. It clearly has a weapon it could use on you.
- Some non-venomous snakes are usually quite large in sizes like the Boidae (boa family) and the Pythonidae (pythons family). Venomous snakes can be large but not when compared to these families mentioned above.
Now you’ve learned some tips on differentiating venomous snakes from non-venomous. Let’s see the different kind of venoms and how they affect the human body
Types of Snakes Venoms
Snake venoms are mainly made of proteins and enzymes which function primarily to lower blood pressure, destroy red blood cells, immobilize muscles, and eventually death. Basically there are three kinds of snake venoms classified based on their toxins and how they affect the body.
It causes a condition known as Necrosis in which the toxins destroy most of or all the cells in a tissue or organ. This kind of venom helps to digest the prey from inside out before a snake begins eating.
The cell deaths start from the site of the bite and then begin propagating. This is why you have to seek medical attention immediately after a bite.
The Mozambique Spitting Cobra are one of those snakes with a deadly cytotoxic venom. When you get bitten by any snake with this kind of venom without any quick access to anti-venom, in most cases amputation is always the fix.
Cytotoxins are also categorized based on the kind of cells they affect i.e
Cardiotoxins: affect the cells in the heart and you can tell what happens from there.
Myotoxins: affect the cells in the muscle.
Nephrotoxins: affect the cells in the Kidney.
As the name implies, Neurotoxins work against the nervous system by disrupting neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters send chemical signals in the body. When this toxins get in the body they either disrupt the signals or destroy the neurotransmitters.
Neurotoxins has a wide variety of toxins categorized on how they stop the transmission of signals in the body.
Examples of Snakes in this family; cobras, sea snakes, coral snakes, black and green mambas and so on.
This works like poisoning the blood. It causes Haemolysis which is the destruction of red blood cells. It can also induce blood clotting thereby causing internal bleeding and eventually tissue and organ failure or death.
Most species of vipers and cobras and also the infamous tropical rattlesnake has this kind of venom.
Snake Venom Positive Uses
- Anti-Venoms are made from extracting venoms from snakes.
- Venoms target some particular system or organ in the body. Using that knowledge researchers and scientists are looking to create an effective cure to life-threatening diseases.
- These diseases include Alzheimer’s brain disease, stroke, and so on.
- Scientists believe that a compound from the Copperhead snake venom might work in fighting breast cancer. Also, there are reports that a Cobra venom can yield a drug for fighting Parkinson’s disease.
Concluding, snakes might be dangerous or have venom but being practical, no snake will attack you unless it sees you as a danger. The only kinds of snakes that reportedly attack humans for food are the extremely large ones and these cases are tremendously rare.
The more reason why we should try to give them space and avoid trooping into their environment. Civilization builds and we keep moving and innovating structures into wildlife areas without considering the problems it might create. Continents like Africa have the highest snake fatalities because of low wildlife reserves and ignorance.
Snakes kill an average of 50,000 humans yearly worldwide but have we ever asked ourselves, how many snakes are killed yearly. Most snake species are already getting extinct. “Humans are the ultimate race”, indeed we are, but this does not give us the license to get all other species extinct.
Don’t you think, it will be disastrous if some snake species die out before we find out the mystery and solutions they have to offer?