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Genome of Indian cobra sequenced

Date: 08 January 2020 Tags: Biotechnology

Issue

A team of Indian researchers and their collaborators abroad have sequenced the genome of the highly poisonous Indian cobra.

 

Background

This research may go a long way in reducing mortality and disability from snake bites. This also makes Indian cobra the first among the most venomous four Indian snakes, which are collectively called the infamous “big four”, to be genetically mapped.

 

Details

  • The Indian cobra, together with the common krait, Russell’s viper and saw scaled viper, accounts for nearly 46,000 snake bite deaths in the country every year.

  • Worldwide, 5.4 million snake bites occur every year, with 2.8 million of them in India. They are responsible for 4,00,000 disabilities globally, of which 1,38,000 are from India.

  • Through study, the researchers  found that the Indian cobra genome has 19 key toxin genes, primarily expressed in the venom glands of the snake.

  • Targeting these toxins using synthetic human antibodies should lead to a safe and effective anti-venom for treating Indian cobra bites.

  • Currently, antivenom is produced by immunising horses with extracted snake venom and is based on a process developed over 100 years ago. This process is laborious and suffers from a lack of consistency leading to varying efficacy and serious side-effects.

  • Venom is also a great source of drug-like molecules. The Indian cobra genome is no exception and it codes for toxin molecules that can block pain, reduce blood pressure and prevent blood clotting.

  • The scientists say that the next step would be to use this genomic blueprint for venom toxins to make recombinant proteins, generate neutralising antibodies and test them in the clinic.

  • This high-quality genome will not only be a wonderful resource for understanding the evolution of the medically important snake and its venom repertoire but can also be very useful for the innovation of next generation recombinant antivenoms.

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