The bites of poisonous snakes living in Europe are far less dangerous than those of tropical relatives such as cobras, mambas or rattlesnakes. Nevertheless, they can cause serious physical discomfort. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Ecology IME and the LOEWE Center for Translational Biodiversity Genomics (TBG) recently decoded the venom cocktail of the milos viper native to Greece, analyzing its potential for biomedical applications. The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences.
The Milos viper is a close relative of the lavender viper, one of the most dangerous venomous snakes in Europe. It is native exclusively to the Cyclades, especially Milos, and yet its venom was previously completely unexplored. "By applying state-of-the-art mass spectrometry, known as proteomics, we were able to identify the components in the venom of the Milos viper for the first time. We can show that its venom cocktail is almost identical to the venoms of the various subspecies of the Levant viper and must conclude that it has comparable potency," says Dr. Tim Lüddecke. So the study confirms that milos vipers are not harmless. But what biomedical benefits could be derived from their venom?
"We have identified several toxins that belong to protein classes with known efficacy against bacterial pathogens. These can potentially be used to develop new lead molecules for drug discovery against infectious diseases," explains Lüddecke. "We have performed initial activity studies with the toxin and show that it does indeed have strong activity against some medically relevant bacteria. The task now is to isolate and further develop these components."