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New species of venomous snake

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    30th May, 2022

Context

The snake has been named Maya’s Pit Viper after the deceased mother of an Army officer.

  • The name of the pit viper, recognised as Trimeresurusmayaaeis also believed to allude to maya, meaning the supernatural powers, or the illusion related to local legends.

About

  • Pit viper, is the species of viper (subfamily Crotalinae) that has, in addition to two movable fangs, a heat-sensitive pit organ between each eye and nostril which together help it accurately aim its strike at its warm-blooded prey.
  • Pit vipers are found from deserts to rainforests, primarily in the New World.
  • They can be terrestrial, arboreal, or aquatic.
  • Some species lay eggs and others produce live young ones.
  • The snake measuring about 750 mm in length.

Why it is important?

  • In a country where around 1.2 million people have lost their lives owing to snakebite and many more have lost their limbs in the last two decades.
  • A discovery of a new venomous snake means a lot in the context of public health.
  • Venom is a complex protein, mostly typical to a species and thus unravelling a new species will help understanding its venom and its impact on human life and perhaps will help save lives.

Snake bites in India

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 5 million snakebites occur each year, resulting in up to 2.7 million envenoming.
  • Published reports suggest that between 81,000 and 138,000 deaths occur each year.
  • Snakebite envenoming causes as many as 400,000 amputations and other permanent disabilities.
  • Many snakebites go unreported, often because victims seek treatment from non-medical sources or do not have access to health care.
  • As a result it is believed that many cases of snakebite go unreported.
  • Snake antivenoms are effective treatments to prevent or reverse most of the harmful effects of snakebite envenoming.
  • They are included in the WHO Essential Medicines List and should be part of any primary health-care package where snake bites occur.
  • Unfortunately many people either lack access to antivenom, or cannot afford to pay for them.
  • Many families sell possessions or go into debt in order to obtain antivenom after someone is bitten.
  • WHO added snakebite envenoming to its priority list of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in June 2017.

Facts:

In India, around 90% of snakebites are caused by the 'big four' among the crawlers

  • Common krait,
  • Indian cobra,
  • Russell's viper and
  • Saw scaled viper.
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