Navigation Links
Study of isolated snakes could help shed light on venom composition
Date:9/16/2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla. While studying a way to more safely and effectively collect snake venom, University of Florida researchers have noticed the venom delivered by an isolated population of Florida cottonmouth snakes may be changing in response to their diet.

Scientists used a portable nerve stimulator to extract venom from anesthetized cottonmouths, producing more consistent extraction results and greater amounts of venom, according to findings published in August in the journal Toxicon.

The study of venoms is important for many reasons, scientists say.

"The human and animal health benefits include understanding the components of venom that cause injury and developing better antivenin," said Darryl Heard, B.V.M.S., Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine's department of small animal clinical sciences. "In addition, the venom components have the potential to be used for diagnostic tests and the development of new medical compounds."

But in addition to showing the extraction method is safer, more effective and less stressful to both snake and handler than the traditional "milking" technique, Heard and Ryan McCleary, a Ph.D. candidate in biology in UF's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, discovered the venom from these particular snakes differs from that of mainland snakes, likely because of their unique diet of dead fish dropped by seabirds.

Heard and McCleary collaborated to develop a safe, reliable and humane technique for collecting venom from cottonmouths as part of a larger study on a specific population of snakes that reside on Seahorse Key, an isolated island near Cedar Key on the Florida's Gulf Coast.

The venom collection study included data from 49 snakes on Seahorse Key.

"Snakes on this island are noted for their large size," said Heard, a zoological medicine veterinarian with additional expertise in anesthesia. He added that Harvey Lillywhite, Ph.D., a professor of biology at UF and McCleary's predoctoral adviser, has confirmed that cottonmouths on Seahorse Key eat primarily dead fish dropped by birds in a large seabird rookery.

Lillywhite also directs UF's Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory, located in the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. McCleary hopes to build on earlier studies about the snakes' ecology and to explore whether evolutionary changes may have affected the composition of the snakes' venom.

"My interest is in the evolutionary aspect," McCleary said. "If these snakes already have an abundant source of dead prey, why do they need venom?"

Preliminary findings show some differences in venom components, he added.

Traditionally, venom has been collected from venomous snakes by manually restraining the animal behind the head and having it bite a rubber membrane connected to a collecting chamber.

"This requires the capture of an awake snake, which increases the risk of human envenomation and is also stressful to the snake," Heard said, adding that manual collection of venom also does not guarantee that all of the venom is collected.

The nerve stimulator is used in human anesthesia to measure the effect of muscle relaxants.

"It delivers a series of electric stimuli, of very low voltage and amperage, and causes no pain or tissue injury," Heard said. "The electrodes are placed behind the eye, across the area of the venom gland. The nerve stimulator sends a current across the gland, causing reflex contraction and expulsion of the venom."

The technique allows collection from snakes that might not otherwise give up their venom, which is an essential in the process of creating antivenins for victims of snake bite, Heard said.

"The stimulator is battery-powered and relatively inexpensive," he said. "In addition, the anesthetic we used, known as propofol, can easily be transported."

Propofol, which has been prominent in news headlines recently as being linked to the death of singer Michael Jackson, is a short acting anesthetic administered by intravenous injection. The drug is commonly used to anesthetize animals in veterinary clinical practice, but it is not believed to have previously been used to anesthetize snakes for venom collection.


'/>"/>

Contact: Sarah Carey
careysk@vetmed.ufl.edu
352-392-2213
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Childhood obesity indicates greater risk of school absenteeism, Penn study reveals
2. A study by the MUHC and McGill University opens a new door to understanding cancer
3. Study begins to reveal clues to the cause and progression of sepsis
4. Clones on task serve greater good, evolutionary study shows
5. New study warns limited carbon market puts 20 percent of tropical forest at risk
6. New study examines how rearing environment can alter navigation
7. Study links cat disease to flame retardants in furniture and to pet food
8. New continent and species discovered in Atlantic study
9. Study shows link between alcohol consumption and hiv disease progression
10. Feeling hot, hot, hot: New study suggests ways to control fever-induced seizures
11. Study finds environmental tests help predict hospital-acquired Legionnaires disease risk
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/10/2016)... , February 10, 2016 ... According to 2016 iris recognition market report, ... recognition is more widely accepted for border ... both fingerprint and iris recognition technology in ... to avoid purchasing two individual biometrics devices. ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... LONDON , Feb. 4, 2016 ... is apparently one of the most popular hubs ... Project, MetaHIT and other huge studies of human ... that past few years, the microbiome space has ... applied biomedical research. This report focuses on ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... 2016  BioMEMS devices deployed in hospitals ... medical screening and diagnostic applications, such as ... that facilitate and assure continuous monitoring without ... being bolstered through new opportunities offered by ... coupled with wireless connectivity and low power ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/10/2016)... , Febr. 10, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - BioAmber Inc. (NYSE: ... pleased to announce that Mitsui & Co. Ltd., its ... succinic acid plant, is investing an additional CDN$25 million ... increasing its stake from 30% to 40%.  Mitsui will ... bio-succinic acid produced in Sarnia , ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... is introducing a hybrid membership model which will provide ... joining or renewing through an organizational purchasing model. For ... employee in any size association or AMC office can ... benefits.   John H. Graham, IV , ... organizations of any size and their employees to gain ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... BOSTON , Feb. 10, 2016  Matchbook, ... sourcing for fast growing biotech companies, announced today ... Senior Procurement Strategic Advisor. Jim brings nearly 25 ... sourcing and procurement, having spent nearly two decades ... Supply Chain/Logistics and Procurement at Genzyme and, most ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... Charlotte, NC (PRWEB) , ... February 10, 2016 ... ... highly anticipated expansion to their comprehensive training and support program, Sonalinkā„¢ remote monitoring. ... Sonablate® HIFU procedures performed on Friday, February 5th, connecting Dr. Samuel Peretsman to ...
Breaking Biology Technology: