How To Make Antivenom | Summary and Q&A

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May 16, 2013
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How To Make Antivenom

TL;DR

Snake antivenom is made by extracting venom from snakes, freeze-drying it, injecting animals to produce antibodies, and purifying the antibodies into dose vials.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does antivenom work in the body?

Antivenom stimulates the production of antibodies, which neutralize venom toxins by smothering them and preventing further spread.

Q: How is venom extracted from snakes?

Venom is extracted by gently squeezing and "milking" the venom glands of snakes. Multiple snakes need to be milked many times to acquire enough venom.

Q: How are antibodies produced for making antivenom?

Animals like horses, sheep, or goats are injected with small doses of venom over several weeks, allowing them to build antibodies. The antibodies are then harvested by draining blood from the animal's jugular.

Q: Why is snake antivenom expensive and in short supply?

The process to make antivenom is expensive, time-consuming, and requires scarce resources. A single vial may cost over $1500, and global supply shortages often occur.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Snake antivenom was developed by Albert Calmette in the late 1890s using his expertise in vaccine making.

  • Antivenom works by stimulating the production of antibodies that neutralize venom toxins.

  • The process to make antivenom involves extracting venom, freeze-drying it, injecting animals to produce antibodies, and purifying the antibodies into dose vials.

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