Showing posts with label Kerala. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kerala. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Biosensor Technology for Snake Venom

The following story by T. Nandakumar is from The Hindu, originally published in November 1, 2011 and was sent by Dr. A. Buji Kumar.
Naja naja, JCM
A team of researchers at the State Inter-University Centre for Excellence in Bioinformatics (SIUCEB) under the University of Kerala is working on the development of a biosensor for identification of snake venom that could help bring down the mortality rate of snake bite victims in the country significantly.

The State-funded project, essentially an amalgamation of biology and electronics, will enable targeted treatment of snake bite victims by precise detection of the type of snake. The sensor under development is a gadget like a glucometer that can read a strip laced with the body fluid of a snake bite victim and provide a read out on a screen. The blood, urine or fluid from the bite site can be used to analyse the specific type of venom. The prototype of the biosensor is expected to be ready in eight months.

According to WHO estimates, India has the highest number of deaths (35,000 to 50,000 a year) due to snake bites. The States with the largest number of snake bite cases include Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.

In India, the conventional clinical practice is to administer polyvalent anti-snake venom (ASV) which comprises antibodies of four different species (Big Four), namely the Spectacled (Indian) cobra, the Common krait, Saw-scaled viper and Russell's viper, that account for most of the bite cases.
The polyvalent method accounts for the high incidence of snake bite deaths in India. It often causes severe allergic reaction in the victim, (seen in up to 30 per cent of the recipients worldwide) demanding secondary treatment.

Australia has the highest number of venomous snakes, yet the number of death cases is less because the country follows the targeted monovalent technique based on identification of species using a snake venom detection kit.

“The polyvalent treatment method results in collateral damage, affecting internal organs. To confirm a snake bite, doctors often wait for symptoms like dizziness, nausea or imbalance, typical of neurotoxins, or anti-coagulation of blood that is characteristic of haemotoxins. The delay can lead to complications or death,” says R. Dileepkumar, Post Doctoral Fellow at SIUCEB and principal investigator of the project.

The biosensor, based on ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay) technology, will obviate the need to wait for symptoms and avoid the complications inherent in administering polyvalent antivenom.

The project team at SIUCEB is currently raising antibodies in mammalian models against the Big Four species that account for the maximum number of snake bites in India.

The sensor is expected to overcome many limitations in the conventional approach like cross reactivity and sensitivity, says Mr. Dileepkumar. “It can also be used to quantify the extent of envenomation (to determine the dose of monovalent ASV required) and to monitor the venom clearance from the body,”

When a snake bite victim is brought to the hospital, the doctor or technician collects body fluids from the person and applies them to the strips coated with species-specific antibodies. The unreacted materials in the fluid are washed off and the strips are administered with enzyme-labelled secondary antibody that can generate electrons measurable as electric current for a reaction. The strips are then inserted into the biosensor to give a reading that can be classified as one of the Big Four venoms.

While the technical design of the biosensor is complete, the biological study is on. Mr. Dileepkumar says efforts are on to tie up with research institutions in the Middle East for sourcing more stable antibodies raised from the camel. This, he says, would avoid the need to store the strips at low temperature.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vava Suresh of Thiruvananthapuram

According to one article in The Times of India, five out of the ten best cities to live in India are located in Kerala. This Indian state is a popular tourist destination for multiple reasons, including its spectacular scenery, world class yoga, and Ayurveda treatments. Not mentioned in the article is the state's exceptionally rich snake fauna - it’s difficult to understand why this was overlooked. One Kerala man is exceptionally well known for his efforts to conserve snakes, Vava Suresh of Thiruvananthapuram. Locally he is known as the 'Snake Man' and is estimated to have rescued and conserved 5000 snakes which have strayed into the human world in and around Trivandrum. Vava Suresh attributes his passion for snakes from childhood experiences which started at about age twelve. He is well known for rescuing and releasing endangered species of snakes and collecting eggs and protecting them during incubation, and then releasing the neonates into natural habitats. One recent article about him included the following, "Time and again, he has paid the price for flirting with danger. Hardly a few months ago, he was battling for life in a hospital ICU after being bitten by an enraged cobra. The skin on his hands bears the mark of several viper bites." The photos below show Vava Suresh's snake handling and education efforts as well as documenting his encounter with a Russell's viper. The photos were recently sent to me by Dr. A. Biju Kumar at the University of Kerala.