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Animal Venoms—Curse or Cure?

This article discusses the detrimental and beneficial aspects of animal venoms
Most animal lineages feature venomous representatives and more than 15% of all animals use venoms to gain an evolutionary advantage. With the incredible diversity of venomous animals comes a vast variety of anatomical structures for the delivery of venoms, including fang-like extremities, antennae, pincers, modified teeth, beaks, stingers, modified ovipositors, proboscis, barbs, spurs, hairs, harpoons, and nematocysts. The two most important purposes of venom usage are for predation and defence.

With several million annual accidents, more than hundred thousand fatalities and many more permanent disabilities, snakebites comprise the biggest global problem for human health caused by venomous animals. Despite antivenom research having made incredible advancements over the past century, there are still many potentially dangerous venomous species for which no antivenom is available, yet.

Research into the beneficial effects of animal venoms revealed that some venom components can be utilised for diagnostics, therapeutics, molecular tools in basic research for studying physiological processes, and as treatments against pests and parasites. Several venom-derived components have already made it to the market, including drugs to treat diabetes, pain, autoimmune disease, cancer, and a bioinsecticide to target insect pests.

Overall, the potential benefit that animal venoms might have for humanity by far outweighs the detrimental effects caused by accidents with venomous animals.

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Life on Land: Ecology, Evolution, Challenges, and Solutions

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