Affiliation: Division of Structural Biology and Bioinformatics, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, 4, Raja S.C. Mallick Road, Jadavpur, Kolkata-700032, India.
It is a time tested phenomenon that in spite of deadly toxins in snake venoms, they are used for curing certain ailments of human suffering. Historically this application appears to co-evolve in many countries where India has significant contribution. Before independence, few British surgeons and naturalists documented the profile of snakes in India and investigated their venoms. With the advancement of technology, it is now conclusively known that venoms are rich source of bioactive compounds that can be used for therapeutic purposes. Many venom components have been purified and their structures at molecular level have been derived. Since overproduction of peptides and proteins are now possible in vitro, venom components are likely to serve as templates or scaffold to provide information for developing drugs of discrete specificity and high potency. Venom components are used as diagnostic tool, e.g. Russell’s viper (Daboia russelli) venom factor V and X activator and ecarin from Saw scaled viper (Echis carinatus) venom for blood clotting test. Components from cobra (Naja naja) venom showed good results as chemotherapeutic agent in the clinical trials. In this review, the trend of investigations on snake venom in India from ancient time to modern period has been presented focusing on their therapeutic applications.