Scorpion diet makes snakes more venomous

April 10, 2009 at 2:59 PM
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BANGOR, Wales, April 10 (UPI) -- Deadly saw-scaled vipers that feed on scorpions are far more dangerous than those that eat mammals and reptiles, a Welsh researcher says.

Axel Barlow of Bangor University began studying the snakes, one of the major killers in West Africa, to determine why anti-venom does not help some bite victims, the North Wales Chronicle reported. He found that the scorpion-eaters' venom is about 30 times as toxic as that of other saw-scaled vipers.

Barlow is collaborating on his research with the Venom Research Unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

"The West African governments continue to buy this anti-venom from India, but it doesn't work," Barlow said. "It's kind of intuitive that a snake's venom is going to be more toxic to the type of animals that they feed on."

Anti-venom is produced by injecting snake venom into horses, causing them to produce antibodies, and then harvesting their blood. To work, anti-venoms must be matched to the type of venom produced by the snake involved in the bite.

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