Immunological profile of antivenoms: preclinical analysis of the efficacy of a polyspecific antivenom through antivenomics and neutralization assays

J Proteomics. 2014 Jun 13;105:340-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2014.02.021. Epub 2014 Feb 28.


Parenteral administration of animal-derived antivenoms constitutes the mainstay in the treatment of snakebite envenomings. Despite the fact that this therapy has been available for over a century, the detailed understanding of the neutralizing and immunoreactivity profiles of the majority of antivenoms is pending. Currently, a combination of preclinical neutralization tests and 'antivenomics', i.e. a proteomic-based assessment of antivenom immunoreactivity, provides a powerful analytical platform to investigate the preclinical efficacy of antivenoms. In this review, the studies performed on the polyvalent antivenom manufactured by Instituto Clodomiro Picado, Costa Rica, are summarized. This antivenom is prepared by immunizing horses with a mixture of the venoms of Bothrops asper, Crotalus simus and Lachesis stenophrys, and is used in Central America for the treatment of envenomings by viperid species. Overall, the antivenom shows a widespread pattern of immunological reactivity against homologous and heterologous venoms, which correlates with its ability to neutralize lethal, hemorrhagic, myotoxic, coagulant, defibrinogenating, phospholipase A2 and proteinase activities of viperid venoms. At the same time, antivenomics detected several venom components against which the antivenom shows only partial or negligible immunorecognition, such as low molecular mass vasoactive peptides, disintegrins, and some phospholipases A2, P-I metalloproteinases and serine proteinases. Such information can be used to design strategies for enhancing the antibody response of horses against poorly immunogenic, toxicologically-relevant venom components in order to further improve the efficacy of this antivenom.

Biological significance: The timely parenteral administration of an appropriate antivenom remains, more than a century after the development of the first serum antivenimeux by Calmette and Phisalix and Bertrand, the only currently effective treatment for snakebite envenomings. A key technical issue in the generation of novel antivenoms is the design of optimized immunization venom mixtures that ensure that the resulting antidotes will be effective against the highest number of venoms from snakes of medical concern across the geographical range where they will be used. Antivenomics is a proteomics-based protocol developed to complement in vitro and in vivo standard preclinical tests in the qualitative and quantitative characterization of the immunological profile and the extent of cross-reactivity of antivenoms against homologous and heterologous venoms. Antivenomics is translational venomics. The combination of antivenomics and neutralization assays represents a powerful analytical platform to investigate the efficacy of antivenoms at the molecular and preclinical levels. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Proteomics of non-model organisms.

Keywords: Antivenom; Antivenomics; Costa Rican snakes; Pre-clinical neutralization test; Snake envenoming; Snake venomics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / chemistry
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Antibody Specificity*
  • Antivenins / chemistry
  • Antivenins / immunology*
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Immunization / methods
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Snake Venoms / chemistry
  • Snake Venoms / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antivenins
  • Snake Venoms