TOPIC: LIFE SCIENCE, AGRICULTURE, SCIENCE, HEALTH AND HYGIENE
GENOME OF INDIAN COBRA SEQUENCED
Context: A consortium of scientists, including some from India, have mapped the genome of the Indian Cobra, among the most poisonous snakes in the country.
- Every year, approximately five million people worldwide are bitten by venomous snakes resulting in about 400,000 amputations and more than 100,000 deaths.
- Each year, about 46,000 people die and 140,000 people are disabled in India from snakebites by the ‘Big 4’ the Indian cobra, the common krait, Russell’s viper, and the saw-scaled viper.
- Knowing the sequence of genes could aid in understanding the chemical constituents of the venom and contribute to development of new anti-venom therapies, which have remained practically unchanged for over a century.
- High-quality genomes of venomous snakes will enable generation of a comprehensive catalogue of venom-gland-specific toxin genes that can be used for the development of synthetic anti-venom of defined composition
CAUSE OF CONCERN
- Sequencing a genome is an important step to making anti-venom but wouldn’t on its own solve the problem of making and supplying enough of the product to address the huge volume and variety of snakebites in India, according to independent scientists.
- Though bites from 60 of 270 species of Indian snakes are known to kill or maim, anti-venom now available is only effective against the ‘Big 4.’
- These 4 species are not found in northeastern India but the region reports a significant number of snake bites. That implies we need new kinds of anti-venom against species here.
- The krait in Punjab produces venom chemically different from the krait in South India.
- The Sind krait from western India is over 40 times more potent than that of the spectacled cobra, making it the most toxic Indian snake.
- Unfortunately, the polyvalent anti-venom fails to effectively neutralise the venom of this species as well.
- India is the snakebite capital of the world. Killing so many people every year, thus there is a need to make it a public health issue.