Research Highlight

Nanotherapy for snakebite

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.109 Published online 11 August 2019

© S. Priyadarshini

Nanoparticles made from titanium dioxide can neutralise the toxic effects of snake venom, a study reveals1. These nanaoparticles could emerge as a potential antidote to snakebite.

Declared as a neglected disease by the World Health Organisation, snakebite claims 50,000 lives every year in India. Antiserum is the only available therapy for snakebite. However, making antiserum is a time-consuming process. Besides, it cannot efficiently counter the toxic effects of venom. 

In their search for an alternative therapy, scientists from the Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences & Research in New Delhi and the National Institute of Technology in Goa, both in India, and the University of Cambridge in the UK synthesised titanium dioxide nanoparticles.  They then tested the efficiency of these nanoparticles in protecting mice against the toxic effects of viper and cobra venom.

Snake venom contains multiple components, including enzyme phospholipase A2, that destroy microvessels, resulting in bleeding and the build-up of abnormal body fluid. These components also activate a snake-bitten person’s immune system, eventually leading to premature cell death and kidney failure. 

The researchers found that the nanoparticles protected mice against venom-induced bleeding and cell death. These particles checked the generation of abnormal body fluid and reduced venom-induced inflammation more efficiently than existing anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and indomethacin.

The nanoparticles neutralised the toxic effects of viper venom more effectively than for the cobra venom. The researchers say that such nanoparticles may be potentially useful for treating snake-bitten people, especially in rural parts of India, where antiserum is not always available.


1. Chakrabartty, S. et al. Inhibition of snake venom induce sterile inflammation and PLA2 activity by Titanium dioxide nanoparticles in experimental animals. Sci. Rep.9:11175 (2019) doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-47557-y