An Introduction to Reptile Venom Used for Medical Purposes

Josh Ruffell has nearly three decades of experience in the animal field, including serving as an independent trainer and animal consultant on numerous film and television productions. Josh Ruffell is particularly adept at handling both venomous and nonvenomous reptiles.

A number of reptiles possess enough venom to completely incapacitate their prey. Some snakes, including vipers, are so venomous, in fact, that they pose a lethal threat to humans. That said, reptile venom is often used for medical purposes. Venom from the Brazilian pit viper (Bothrops jararaca) for instance, has long been used to address high blood pressure levels and in 1981 became the first venom-based medical solution approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Saw scaled viper venom, meanwhile, was instrumental in helping to develop the myocardial infarction drug tirofiban which helps to prevent blood clots.

Snakes are not the only reptiles with venom that has demonstrated beneficial properties for humans. The venom of gila monsters, for example, is featured in exenatide, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. Venom from the king cobra also shows promise for potentially being used in a medical context.

A Look at the Black Mamba

 Black Mamba pic

Black Mamba

Josh Ruffell is an experienced animal trainer and wildlife consultant who has worked on numerous Hollywood productions. Although Josh Ruffell has a particular interest in reptiles, he has worked with a large variety of species throughout his more than 25 year career in the animal field.

One of the best-known snakes in the world, the black mamba, earns its name from its speed, venom, and aggression. They primarily live in southern and central eastern Africa, sticking to savannas, rocky hills, and coastal bushlands. The name comes not from their coloration but the deep blue black color within their mouths.

The black mamba has a shy temperament, despite its aggression when threatened. During most encounters, it will retreat as quickly as possible, not wanting any kind of confrontation. If it cannot find a path away from a threat quickly, however, it will raise its head, open it’s mouth, and hiss before potentially striking repeatedly.

Envenomation by a black mamba was reportedly always fatal prior to the development of antivenin. In rural areas, however, a bite is often still fatal due to antivenin not being widely available. When humans move into the black mamba’s territory, the resultant encounters often lead to dangerous bites and is detrimental to the species in general.

The Largest Snake on the African Continent

African rock python pic

African rock python

Josh Ruffell is an experienced animal trainer and consultant providing services to numerous film and television productions throughout Los Angeles. Over the course of his more than 25 year career, Josh Ruffell has worked with a multitude of animals, including a diverse collection of reptiles during his time as manager of New England Reptile Distributors.

The African rock python is the largest snake on the African continent and one of the largest species of snake in the world. While rock pythons typically grow to between 14 and 16 feet and up to 120 pounds, some specimens may potentially reach lengths of up to 20 feet. As is characteristic of pythons in general, the
African rock python prefers to incapacitate its prey by constriction, sometimes targeting animal’s as large as antelopes or crocodiles.

African rock pythons are not generally kept by reptile enthusiasts due to their volatile temperament, not to mention their impressive size. With that being said, if they are raised from a hatchling by an experienced reptile keeper, they can be a quite manageable and rewarding species to work with in captivity.

When it comes to the African rock pythons parental instincts, it does not lay and abandon its eggs, but rather protects its nest. A female rock python will coil her body around her eggs, keeping them safe and warm for the duration of the incubation period. She may also stay with her babies, watching over them for approximately 2 weeks after hatching.

A Quick Look at the World’s Largest Reptiles