AUSTRALIA is home to 10 of the most venomous snakes in the world and thousands of dogs are bitten each year in the country.
In fact, according to reports, about 6000 dogs are bitten annually and scientists say they only have about 20% chance of survival.
But that statistic could be set to be turned on its head thanks to a new anti-venom developed by CSIRO.
While the number of people who die from snake bites has significantly reduced over the past few decades as medical expertise has advanced and anti-venoms have improved and are more readily available, pets are still at risk because treatments can be expensive and not as effective as they could be.
CSIRO scientists have recently teamed with Padula Serums Pty Ltd, a small biotech company in regional Victoria, to produce an anti-venom to treat eastern brown and tiger snake bites.
The eastern brown snake is the species responsible for most deaths caused by snake bite in Australia, although there are now usually only one or two deaths per year.
The eastern brown inhabits most of eastern Australia from the desert to the coast and is also found in arid areas of the Northern Territory and the far east of the Kimberley in Western Australia. It inhabits a range of habitats but is prevalent in open grasslands, pastures and woodland.
Dr Andrew Padula, from Padula Serums, said working with CSIRO helped turn his idea into a reality.
"I've been working on antivenom serums for dogs and cats for a while now but I really needed the expert equipment and skills of the CSIRO scientists to make the best product possible,” Dr Padula said.
Professor George Lovrecz, from CSIRO's manufacturing team, said this new process was much more effective that those currently on the market because it was distilled and concentrated to create a pure, fully tested anti-venom, which was ready to be injected into snake-bitten dogs.
"We used the latest technologies to make sure that the anti-venom is not only safe and effective but it's also a lot cheaper to produce compared to existing products,” Prof Lovrecz said.
Dr Padula said the key to the anti-venom was in the way it negated the effects of snake bites.
"What we've shown with this product is it has some interesting, powerful, neutralising properties against the toxins contained in snake venoms such as the tiger snake and brown snake that cause blood clotting disturbances.”
The process to create the anti-venom could be adapted for any type of snake and CSIRO is looking to partner with other biomedical companies to explore further applications.
Once final testing has been completed and the anti-venom has been given approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority it will be stocked by vets.
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