Evolving Trends in Snake Venom Research: A Review of the Last 60 Years of Publications

Avella, Ignazio                                                                                                                                                              Faculty of Sciences                                                                                                                                           University of PortoPorto, Portugal

 

Wüster, Wolfgang

Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory                                                                                   School of Biological Sciences                                                                                                                           Bangor University

Bangor, United Kingdom

 

Calvete, Juan J.

Evolutionary and Translational Venomics Laboratory                                                                                            Institute of Biomedicine of Valencia                                                                                                                       Valencia, Spain

 

Martínez-Freiría, Fernando

 

fmartinez-freiria@cibio.up.pt 

 

CIBIO

Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources                                                                          

University of Porto                                                                                                                                             Vairão, Portugal

 

Snakebite is a globally neglected disease, only recently recognized by the World Health Organization. Despite the still low attention paid by health agencies and pharmaceutical companies to snakebite-related issues, venom research has grown consistently in recent years, being revolutionized by the introduction of new analytical tools (e.g. genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics). In this work, we aim to identify the trends and changes of snake venom research over time, and relate findings to the diversity of medically important venomous snakes. We reviewed 184 articles published between 1960 and 2019, related to this topic. We defined macro-categories describing both the topics and the analytical approaches reported in each article, identified the most studied taxa and detected the countries where snake venom research was developed. By cross-checking different databases, we looked at which dangerousness category the about 200 medically important venomous snake species are assigned to and which and how many effective antivenoms are reported for each. Snake venom research sharply increased in the early 2000s, with articles focusing on venom characterization and comparative venomics. Most of them focused on American species, with Crotalinae being the most studied group. The analysed databases reported fragmented information about most of the medically important snakes and available antivenoms. Despite the increasing trends in snake venom research, public databases need to be updated and future studies should increasingly focus on antivenom development and analysis of venom from more diverse snake taxa, particularly in countries where snakebite impact is the most severe.

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