What Happens When Snake Venom Is Mixed With Human Blood


What happens when snake venom comes into contact with human blood? A video uploaded Wednesday by BBC Earth Unplugged provides an answer.

BBC host Maddie Moate donated 10 milliliters of her own blood and then mixed it with the hemotoxic venom from a saw-scaled viper, the snake family responsible for the most snake bite-related deaths in the world.

The venom triggered the coagulation cascade which morphed the blood from its liquid form into a substance akin to “jelly.” As Moate explained, victims of saw-scaled viper snack bites commonly die of blood clots that form shortly after the venom makes its way into the bloodstream.

Snakes routinely make the top 10 list of things people are afraid of, so it might surprise many of you to know that about 85% of snakes worldwide are not venomous. In fact, of the 2,700 known species of snakes, only about 30 of them pose any kind of danger to humans. But, given the amount of damage that a snake bite can inflict, it’s probably not very surprising that a few are giving the others a bad reputation.

Take Daboia russelii: an old world viper found throughout India and surrounding countries. Each year, Russell’s Vipers are responsible for thousands of deaths. Though there is a an effective antivenin available in the region, the widespread poverty and the fact that most bites happen in rural areas mean that not all victims are able to receive it.

Immediately at the onset of the bite there is pain in the area, though blood begins to show up in the mouth within minutes and blood pressure will drop. Skin and muscle near the bite can begin to turn necrotic. For nearly a third of untreated cases, disseminated intravascular coagulation (blood clots) can occur and cause failure of the kidneys and other organs, and may ultimately result in death.

Researchers are interested in collecting viper venom for the development of antivenins and also hope to use the coagulating properties to develop medication for trauma and surgical patients from bleeding out.

Check out this video that shows what a single drop of the viper’s venom can do to blood: