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article imageSnakes can now be identified by their venom

By Tim Sandle     Nov 9, 2014 in Environment
Scientists have developed a method for determining the species of snake responsible for a bite by sequencing genetic material from the fang marks.
Scientists working in Nepal have developed a DNA test that can identify the species of snake responsible for a bite using remnant genetic material left inside fang marks on the victim.
To show that the test was effective, researchers collected 194 reptile DNA samples from Nepalese snakebite victims, 21 of whom brought in the dead snake that had bitten them. In all 21 of those cases, the DNA test correctly identified the species of snake.
Although the test remains as a prototype, it is expected that the test can be reformed as an effective field test to help medics rapidly identify the species of snake that has bitten someone and to determine the most effective treatment.
Discussing the test further, lead researcher Ulrich Kuch, the developer of the test and a biologist at the Goethe University Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine in Germany, told Live Science: "You need to know the species that bit your patient in order to treat them. Now, with the DNA-based test, we can substantially increase the number of patients for whom we can identify the snake species responsible for the bite.”
The research is important because knowing the species of snake that bit someone is essential for proper treatment. This becomes more important if the snake bite poses a risk to human health. In such cases, providing the correct anti-venom can mean the difference between life and death. A study in 2008, reported by Web MD, calculated that there are at least 421,000 venomous snakebites, resulting in up to 94,000 deaths, worldwide each year.
The results have yet to be published. However, they have been presented at a recent meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
More about Snakes, Venom, Snake bite, Dna
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