Poisonous snakes, you prefer to stay as far away from them as possible, but now it turns out that the dangerous poison of the animals can save lives.

The venom of two life-threatening snake species forms the basis for a revolutionary wound gel. The gel ensures that wounds close faster in the event of severe bleeding, so that much less blood is lost.

A research team from the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland has found active enzymes in the venom of two species of snakes, the eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) and the saw scale bath (Echis carinatus† This poison is processed in a wound gel.

A bleeding wound treated in the lab with the hydrogel formed a stable blood clot and the bleeding stopped within 60 seconds, while the process would take about eight minutes without the gel. Studies confirm that the snake venom gel reduced blood loss by as much as 80 percent.

The intention is that the wound gel will be available for sale at the drugstore and pharmacy as soon as possible, so that it can be added to first aid kits. The astringent can be extremely useful for ambulance personnel, during disasters and for medical personnel in war zones. Uncontrolled bleeding is the cause of death in war situations in 90 percent of cases.

Extremely powerful enzymes

Snake venom is a complex mix of active biomolecules that affect blood clotting. Only a minimal amount of the active proteins needs to be added to the gel. Especially the enzymes ecarine and textilinine are extremely powerful.

Research by the Australian team shows that ecarin greatly accelerates blood clotting and textilinine prevents the breakdown of blood clots (fibrinolysis). These substances are added to the liquid hydrogel, which is stored cold. It hardens automatically when heated. At body temperature, the gel closes the wound.

Close up of oriental brown snake. Photo: Ken Griffiths

“Uncontrolled bleeding is the cause of death in 40 percent of all fatal injuries,” said team leader Amanda Kijas. “This percentage is much higher in war situations.” She is impressed by nature. “Nature has devised beautiful, advanced mechanisms that we can use in a different way to save human lives. People who still die from blood loss can be saved by this wound gel.”


According to Kijas, even hemophiliacs and those on blood thinners can benefit greatly from the gel. “Our research shows that there is five times less blood loss and that the wound closes three times faster when the hydrogel is applied, compared to the natural functioning of the human body.”

According to the scientist, medical gauze and bandages, which are normally applied in the emergency room, are not sufficient for a heavily bleeding wound. Not infrequently, the wound remains open for a long time, resulting in serious blood loss. “With serious injuries, the body can sometimes no longer stop the bleeding. The trauma is too great. We hope that this gel will speed up the wound healing process, so that dangerously large wounds will still close,” Kijas said.

Together with hospitals, among others, the team will conduct further research into the application of the active substances from snake venom. The hope is that burn victims will also benefit from this wound gel.


The eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) is common in Australia and is considered the second most venomous land snake in the world. This snake is responsible for about 60 percent of all snakebite deaths in Australia.
The poison prevents blood from clotting properly, resulting in severe bleeding. The cardiovascular system collapses, so that oxygen and other substances are no longer transported properly. A heart attack can also occur.

The saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) occurs in large parts of Asia, is not too long at 70 centimeters, has clear scales and is light brown in color. The action of its venom resembles the effect of a bite from the eastern brown snake.
The saw-scaled viper is highly venomous and notorious for the many fatalities it causes worldwide. The snake is at home in towns and cities and is known for being aggressive and biting. The saw-scaled snake’s venom is five times stronger than a cobra’s venom.