Venom Extraction

African Reptiles and Venom is the contracted supplier of snake venoms to the South African Vaccine Producers (Pty) LTD. (SAVP) a subsidiary of the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS). SAVP uses these venoms for the manufacture of their polyvalent (SAIMR) antivenom. As snake venom is prone to attack from bacteria, great care is taken to keep the venom free from contaminants.

The snakes are milked into sterile beakers. The beakers rest on an ice brick, so the temperature of the venom drops from 25 degree Celsius to about 5 degrees Celsius. The pooled venom from a number of snakes of the same species is then centrifuged, to remove debris and salts and the clear venom is then placed into liquid nitrogen which freezes the venom and keeps it at -190 degrees Celsius.

The venom is then later freeze-dried, and in three days the venom is now a completely dry powder, which will retain its properties for many decades. The venom is placed in suitable sterile specimen bottles, weighed, labeled, and stored.

The snakes which are used for the extraction of venom in the production of Polyvalent anti venom are:

  • Puff adder (Bitis arietans)
  • Gaboon Adder (Bitis gabonica & Bitis rhinoceros)
  • Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)
  • Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticepts)
  • Jameson’s Mamba (Dendroaspis jamesoni kaimosae)
  • Cape Cobra (Naja nivea)
  • Snouted Cobra (Naja annulifera)
  • Forest Cobra (Naja subfulva & Naja melanoleuca)
  • Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica)
  • Rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus)

The snake which is used for the extraction of venom in the production of the Boomslang monovalent anti venom is only Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)


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