Animal Venoms-Curse or Cure?

Biomedicines. 2021 Apr 12;9(4):413. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9040413.


An estimated 15% of animals are venomous, with representatives spread across the majority of animal lineages. Animals use venoms for various purposes, such as prey capture and predator deterrence. Humans have always been fascinated by venomous animals in a Janus-faced way. On the one hand, humans have a deeply rooted fear of venomous animals. This is boosted by their largely negative image in public media and the fact that snakes alone cause an annual global death toll in the hundreds of thousands, with even more people being left disabled or disfigured. Consequently, snake envenomation has recently been reclassified by the World Health Organization as a neglected tropical disease. On the other hand, there has been a growth in recent decades in the global scene of enthusiasts keeping venomous snakes, spiders, scorpions, and centipedes in captivity as pets. Recent scientific research has focussed on utilising animal venoms and toxins for the benefit of humanity in the form of molecular research tools, novel diagnostics and therapeutics, biopesticides, or anti-parasitic treatments. Continued research into developing efficient and safe antivenoms and promising discoveries of beneficial effects of animal toxins is further tipping the scales in favour of the "cure" rather than the "curse" prospect of venoms.

Keywords: anti-parasitic; antivenom; biopesticide; envenomation; lethality; therapeutics; toxicity; toxin; venom; venoms to drugs.

Publication types

  • Editorial