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Taxon-selective venom variation in adult and neonate Daboia russelii (Russell’s Viper), and antivenom efficacy
* 1 , 1 , 2 , 2 , 3 , 1
1  Venom Evolution Lab, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia QLD 4072, Australia
2  Alphabiotoxine Laboratory sprl, Barberie 15, 7911 Montroeul-au-bois, Belgium
3  Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands
Academic Editor: Bryan Fry

Published: 27 June 2022 by MDPI in Pathogens and Natural Toxins e-Conference section Venomous Animals

Major variations in venom composition can occur between juvenile and adult venomous snakes. However, due to logistical constraints, antivenoms are produced using adult venoms in immunising mixtures, possibly resulting in limited neutralisation of juvenile snake venoms. Daboia russelii is one of the leading causes of snakebite death across South Asia. Its venom is potently procoagulant, causing stroke in prey animals but causing in humans consumptive coagulopathy—a net anticoagulant state—and sometimes death resulting from hemorrhage. In this in vitro study, we compared the venom activity of—and antivenom efficacy against—six 2-week-old D. russelii relative to that of their parents. Using a coagulation analyser, we quantified the relative coagulotoxicity of these venoms in human, avian, and amphibian plasma. The overall potency on human plasma was similar across all adult and neonate venoms, and SII (Serum Institute of India) antivenom was equipotent in neutralising these coagulotoxic effects. In addition, all venoms were also similar in their action upon avian plasma. In contrast, the neonate venoms were more potent on amphibian plasma, suggesting amphibians make up a larger proportion of neonate diet than adult diet. A similar venom potency in human and avian plasmas but varying selectivity for amphibian plasma suggests ontogenetic differences in toxin isoforms within the factor X or factor V activating classes, thereby providing a testable hypothesis for future transcriptomics work. By providing insights into the functional venom differences between adult and neonate D. russelii venoms, we hope to inform clinical treatment of patients envenomated by this deadly species and to shed new light on the natural history of these extremely medically important snakes.

Keywords: venom; venom variation; ontogenetic venom variation; coagulotoxicity; prey specificity; snakebite