General Question

troubleinharlem's avatar

Why is venom used as anti-venom?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7976points) November 27th, 2009 from IM

On Animal Planet, they talk about how they get the anti-venom from… the venom. How does that work?

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9 Answers

Harp's avatar

The antivenom is made by first injecting the venom into another animal, which triggers an immune response in the animal. The antibodies created by the animal’s system to disable the venom are then harvested. This is what gets injected into the human.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@Harp ; what if the animal isn’t immune? Or does it matter?

Harp's avatar

Only a small amount of venom is needed to cause the animal’s system to create the antibodies. It’s not enough to kill the animal. The small doses are given over several months to allow lots of antibodies to accumulate.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@Harp ; so a little at a time. that makes sense. ^^ thanks!

oratio's avatar

@troubleinharlem I think it also depends on what animal you use. A horse can probably take a lot more than a rabbit.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@oratio ; true… good point.

faye's avatar

It’s similar to the action of a vaccine.

Darwin's avatar

In addition, animals and people can build up a resistance to venom. The man that ran the Haas Serpentarium got so many venomous bites that he hardly blinked an eye when he got another one, and I was told they often used him as a source of antivenin.

As Wikipedia puts it:

“Antivenom is created by injecting a small amount of the targeted venom into an animal such as a horse, sheep, goat, or rabbit; the subject animal will undergo an immune response to the venom, producing antibodies against the venom’s active molecule which can then be harvested from the animal’s blood and used to treat envenomation.”

BTW, in case anyone cares, both antivenom and antivenin are correct. As Wikipedia goes on to inform us, “the name antivenin comes from the French word venin, meaning venom, and historically antivenin was predominant around the world; however, this usage is archaic in English. In 1981, the World Health Organization decided that the preferred terminology in the English language would be “venom” and “antivenom” rather than “venin/antivenin” or “venen/antivenene”.”

Foolaholic's avatar

The idea of creating antidotes from the venom itself is based on the work of Alchemist Philip Von Hohenheim. He is best known for his work of chemical balances within the human body;

“All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous.”

That is too say, anything can be lethal if overdosed, and maintaining personal health is a matter of keeping the necessary elements of your body in check, similar to what @Harp was talking about.

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