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Milk the Snake

Amazing Animals

Milk the Snake

A Papuan taipan gives up its venom for science. These snakes, which can grow to be 6 feet (2 meters) long, are shy, but they will bite when threatened. And that bite is nasty: According to the University of Melbourne s Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU), taipans will often inflict multiple bites on their victims, injecting bigger payloads of venom with each bite. The venom contains toxins that destroy nerves and prevent the blood from clotting. It can kill within 30 minutes. The Papuan taipan is responsible for 82 percent of the serious snakebites in the Central province of Papua New Guinea. Now, AVRU scientists have developed a new antivenom for the deadly bites, publishing their preclinical results in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The new antivenom is less expensive than the current taipan bite treatment, which must be imported from Australia. Shortages of that drug have created a black market in antivenom, study researcher David Williams, a doctoral candidate at AVRU, said in a statement. The researchers are now seeking funding to test the antivenom in rigorous medical trials.

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