Snake venoms are mixtures of numerous proteinacious components that exert diverse functional activities on a variety of physiological targets. Because the toxic constituents found in venom vary from species to species, snakebite victims can present with a variety of life-threatening pathologies related to the neurotoxic, cytotoxic and haemotoxic effects of venom. Of the 1·8 million people envenomed by snakes every year, up to 125 000 die, while hundreds of thousands survive only to suffer with life-changing long-term morbidity. Consequently, snakebite is one of the world's most severe neglected tropical diseases. Many snake venoms exhibit strong haemotoxic properties by interfering with blood pressure, clotting factors and platelets, and by directly causing haemorrhage. In this review we provide an overview of the functional activities of haemotoxic venom proteins, the pathologies they cause in snakebite victims and how their exquisite selectivity and potency make them amenable for use as therapeutic and diagnostic tools relevant for human medicine.
- neglected tropical diseases
- venom-induced consumption coagulopathy