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Novel strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of snakebites

Project Description

Snakebites represent a major neglected tropical disease affecting several million people worldwide and resulting in as many as 150000 deaths each year. Even more victims suffer limb-deforming injuries or require amputation. Our recent study [PLoS One (2013); Citations: New York Times & Times of India] on the socio-economic impact of snakebite on the rural population of Tamil Nadu, India showed the magnitude of this disaster on a typical population, which directly affected by snakebites. The state-of-the-art technology used for the production of antivenom (produced in animals against snake venoms) has remained virtually unchanged for more than 100 years. This treatment is associated with several problems; a) most notably it requires refrigeration, b) it is very expensive, c) must be administered in a hospital under supervision and d) lack of efficacy with high rates of serious complications. Therefore, it is vital to identify and understand the molecular functions of venom components that are responsible for death and injury in order to develop more efficacious therapeutics to treat snakebites.

As a team of specialists with distinctive areas of expertise, we are interested in the isolation and characterisation of various venom proteins to determine their sequence-structure-function and evolutionary relationships. This will tremendously assist in the development of specific diagnostic tools for the detection of snakebites at different parts of the world. Furthermore, since the majority of venom components are proteins, we are using organic/synthetic chemistry approach to develop novel inhibitors in order to block the toxic activities of venom proteins. This will facilitate the development of a combination of chemical molecules that could collectively be used as a ‘universal antidote’ to treat snakebites. We strongly believe that the chemical-based therapeutic approach is likely to possess numerous advantages over the traditionally used antivenom. Therefore, this will be a ‘life-saving gift’ for people who live in remote regions of developing countries where snakebite is an every day threat for their lives.

Students who are interested in this project will have splendid opportunities to learn a broad spectrum of techniques in the field of toxicology, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, structural biology, bioinformatics and pharmaceutical chemistry.

Funding Notes

Students with their own financial support are welcome to contact us at anytime.


Vaiyapuri S et al. (2015) Chapter 14: Kallikrein enzymes. Venomous Reptiles & Their Toxins. Oxford University Press, UK.

Lewin MR, Samuel SP, Wexler DS, Bickler P, Vaiyapuri S, Mensh BD (2014) Early treatment with intranasal neostigmine reduces mortality in a mouse model of Naja naja (Indian Cobra) envenomation. Journal of Tropical Medicine DOI: 131835.

Vaiyapuri S, Vaiyapuri R, Ashokan R, Ramasamy K, Nattamaisundar K, Jeyaraj A, Chandran V, Gajjeraman P, Baksh MF, Gibbins JM, Hutchinson EG (2013) Snakebite and its socio-economic impacts on the rural population of Tamilnadu, India. PLoS One 8(11):e80090.

Vaiyapuri S, Hutchinson EG, Ali MS, Dannoura A, Stanley RG, Harrison RA, Bicknell AB, Gibbins JM (2012) Rhinocetin, a venom-derived integrin-specific antagonist inhibits collagen-induced platelet and endothelial cell functions. Journal of Biological Chemistry 287(31): 26235-44.

Vaiyapuri S, Thiyagarajan N, Hutchinson EG, Gibbins JM (2012) Sequence and phylogenetic analysis of viper venom serine proteases. Bioinformation 8(16): 763-72.

Vaiyapuri S, Wagstaff SC, Harrison RA, Gibbins JM, Hutchinson EG (2011) Evolutionary analysis of novel serine proteases in the venom gland transcriptome of Bitis gabonica rhinoceros. PLoS One 6(6): e21532.

Vaiyapuri S, Wagstaff SC, Watson KA, Harrison RA, Gibbins JM, et al. (2010) Purification and functional characterisation of rhiminopeptidase A, a novel aminopeptidase from the venom of Bitis gabonica rhinoceros. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 4(8): e796.

Vaiyapuri S, Harrison RA, Bicknell AB, Gibbins JM, Hutchinson G (2010) Purification and functional characterisation of rhinocerase, a novel serine protease from the venom of Bitis gabonica rhinoceros. PLoS One 5(3): e9687.

How good is research at University of Reading in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.20

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