Alejandro Alagon, a molecular biologist and antivenom researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico is working on new antivenom serums including treatments for black widow spiders, scorpions, and rattlesnakes, among others. The new antivenoms are far safer and less expensive than older versions because they are easier to produce.
Some of the current antivenoms are not even used when treatment is needed. The current black widow antivenom, for instance, can cause serious side effects, and even though those side effects are rare, many doctors are taught to treat the pain associated with a bite rather than use the antivenom.
Alagon’s approach to developing antivenom is a completely different process than previously used. In the past, antivenom was made by injecting the venom into animals that had excellent defenses and then harvesting and purifying them. Alagon’s process chemically alters the venom itself, bypassing the animal injection process.
The updated black widow treatment is in phase III of the required FDA trials. Alagon’s scorpion antivenom has already cleared FDA approval and is available for treatments. A rattlesnake bite serum is also in phase II trials.
Black widows spiders are common in New Mexico. They are black with a red “hourglass” shape on their backs and ¾ to 3/8 inches in length. Black widows spin webs near ground level, in protected areas such as in boxes or woodpiles, under eaves or other areas where they will not be disturbed. A bite from a black widow causes severe pain, and children and the elderly are at the greatest risk of a serious reaction to a bite.
Tags: Antivenom, Black Widow spiders, Pest Control, Rattlesnakes, Scorpions