They are the pride of Arabia, the ships of the desert. Noble beasts, they change hands for millions of dirhams and are prized for their beauty. Now, according to scientists, camels could hold the key to a better cure for some of the world’s deadliest snakebites.
A collaboration between researchers from Britain and Dubai using camels instead of the usual horses or sheep as incubators for a new antivenom is entering its final stages.
The project is focusing on African snakes including the puff adder, the saw-scaled viper and the black spitting cobra, which between them kill up to 30,000 people a year.
Antivenom is produced by injecting small amounts of toxin into animals and then harvesting antibodies, the proteins produced by the immune system to fight viruses, bacteria and venom. It is these antibodies, in serum form, that allow a person who has been bitten to fight the venom.
Because of the harsh environment in which camels live, they produce better antibodies than horses and sheep, according to Dr Ulrich Wernery, the scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in Dubai.
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