Research Highlight

Enzyme therapy for snake venom tissue destruction

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.50 Published online 20 April 2016

Researchers have unravelled the mechanism behind the massive tissue destruction which happens when the Indian saw-scaled viper Echis carinatus bites. The study has also identified an enzyme called DNAse 1 as a potential candidate for therapy against prevention of such tissue damage caused by snake venom1.

Echis carinatus venom induces the formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), which block blood vessels and entrap venom toxins at the bite site. This results in large scale tissue destruction. Although antivenom therapy saves lives, it has failed to inhibit viper bite-induced tissue destruction.

The researchers injected venom alongside the enzyme DNAse 1 in mouse tails and reported that NETs could be degraded by externally added DNase 1. They say E. carinatus venom is able to induce the formation of stable NETs because it lacks  DNase activity. The dense NETs and the blood clots formed in the damaged tissues and capillaries hinder the free flow of blood and prevent the antivenom from reaching the damaged site.

The researchers suggest that DNase 1 treatment may have a therapeutic potential for preventing tissue destruction caused by snake venom.


1. Katkar, G. D. et al. NETosis and lack of DNase activity are key factors in Echis carinatus venom-induced tissue destruction. Nat. Comm. (2016) doi: 10.1038/ncomms11361