Bitis arietans is considered one of the most medically significant snakes in Africa, primarily due to a combination of its extensive geographical distribution, common occurrence and highly potent haemorrhagic and cytotoxic venom. Our investigation has revealed a remarkable degree of intra-species variation between pooled venom samples from different geographical origins across sub-Saharan Africa and Arabia, and within a group of individual specimens from the same origin in Nigeria as determined by a combination of immunological, biochemical and proteomic assays. We demonstrate significant quantitative and qualitative differences between B. arietans venom in terms of protein expression, immunogenicity and activity of snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMPs); toxins with a primary role in the haemorrhagic and tissue-necrotic pathologies suffered by envenomed victims. Specifically, we have identified a processed PII SVMP that exhibits striking inter-specimen variability.
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