Innovative Immunization Strategies for Antivenom Development

Toxins (Basel). 2018 Nov 2;10(11):452. doi: 10.3390/toxins10110452.


Snakes, scorpions, and spiders are venomous animals that pose a threat to human health, and severe envenomings from the bites or stings of these animals must be treated with antivenom. Current antivenoms are based on plasma-derived immunoglobulins or immunoglobulin fragments from hyper-immunized animals. Although these medicines have been life-saving for more than 120 years, opportunities to improve envenoming therapy exist. In the later decades, new biotechnological tools have been applied with the aim of improving the efficacy, safety, and affordability of antivenoms. Within the avenues explored, novel immunization strategies using synthetic peptide epitopes, recombinant toxins (or toxoids), or DNA strings as immunogens have demonstrated potential for generating antivenoms with high therapeutic antibody titers and broad neutralizing capacity. Furthermore, these approaches circumvent the need for venom in the production process of antivenoms, thereby limiting some of the complications associated with animal captivity and venom collection. Finally, an important benefit of innovative immunization approaches is that they are often compatible with existing antivenom manufacturing setups. In this review, we compile all reported studies examining venom-independent innovative immunization strategies for antivenom development. In addition, a brief description of toxin families of medical relevance found in snake, scorpion, and spider venoms is presented, as well as how biochemical, bioinformatic, and omics tools could aid the development of next-generation antivenoms.

Keywords: DNA immunization; animal envenoming; antivenom development; bioinformatics; high-density peptide microarray technology; immunization; neutralization; omics technologies; recombinant toxin; scorpion envenoming; snakebite envenoming; spider envenoming; synthetic epitope.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antivenins / administration & dosage*
  • Antivenins / biosynthesis*
  • Antivenins / immunology
  • Humans
  • Snake Bites / drug therapy*
  • Snake Venoms / immunology
  • Spider Bites / drug therapy*
  • Spider Venoms / immunology


  • Antivenins
  • Snake Venoms
  • Spider Venoms