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.