Rabbits are immune to snake venom. While snakes can kill rabbits in other ways like constriction, rabbits are not affected by venom from a snake. Rabbits are commonly one of the animals used in a lab to create antibodies for antivenom medications.
How Do We Know Rabbits Are Immune to Snake Venom?
Well, Rabbits Produce Antibodies When Exposed to Venom from a Snake Which Protect Them from the Venom. This Protects Them from Snake Venom, Where Even Though A Human Who Is Much Larger Would Not Be Able to Withstand the Bite. This is Why the Antibodies from The Blood of Rabbits and Other Animals Who Are Immune Is Used to Create Antivenoms for Humans. If These Rabbits Were Not Immune, There Would Be No Way for Them to Provide Humans with An Antivenom. So, How Does the Process of Creating an Antivenom From a Rabbit’s Immunity Work?
What Are We Protecting Against?
To create an antivenom, we are protecting against snake venom which may be harmful from a bite. These bites are commonly delivered to humans, but may also be delivered to animals, such as household pets. Each venom needs to be made specifically for the type of snake it is attempting to protect against. Each snake, or type, needs its own antivenom to be fully effective.
What Are We Using?
In order to protect against a venom, we need to use the blood of an animal which produces antibodies. These animals include; horses, rabbits, goats, or sheep.
What Is the Process?
To begin, the snake in which an antivenom is being created for must be “milked.” Milking is where latex is stretched over a jar, and a snake bites the jar. The venom is extracted by either manually massaging the venom glands, or by an electric stimulation which makes the muscles around the glands contract. Next, the venom is injected in small amounts to an animal who is immune (horse, rabbit, goat, sheep). Over time, the animal’s body will begin to produce antibodies, and once those antibodies are produced, they are then extracted. This is an antivenom solution which has remained essentially unchanged for about 100 years.
What Else Should You Know About A Rabbit’s Immunity to Snake Venom?
- Australia was one of the first countries in the world who decided to experiment with snake antivenoms, in 1898.
- Antivenoms work by injecting a patient with antibody fragments which bind to the venom components. This neutralizes the activity of the venom in the patient.
- The blood of an immune animal, such as a rabbit, is harvested by separating the antibodies, which are fragmented and purified by a series of digestion and processing steps.
- Venom is a complex chemical cocktail, which is made up of a different number of components. Each of these has specific effects on the body of the victim.
- The purpose of venom is to help a predator fight off other predators, capture prey, and deter competitors.
- Because of the chemical complexity of venom, it has the potential to aid in the development in new medicines.
If Rabbits Are Immune to Snake Venom, How Are Rabbits Prey Animals to Snakes?
Although Snakes Cannot Kill Rabbits with Venom, They Can by Other Means. One Way Is by Constriction. This Is Where the Snake Takes Its Entire Body, Wraps It Around Their Prey, And Crushes It. A Snake Can Perform This Action Very Easily on A Rabbit, As Some Can Crush Animals Much Larger Than Them. Such as Deer, Antelope, Or Humans. Snakes Also Eat their Prey Whole and Are Able to Consume Prey Three Times Larger Than the Size of Their Head Due to Their Ability to Unhinge Their Jaw.
One of a snake’s most well-known factors is their ability to produce a deadly, venomous strike. Some of a snake’s prey will be immune to their venom, however, this does not make them much less dangerous. Snakes are very strong animals, capable of crushing large mammals through constriction before eating them. In some cases, constriction is enough to cause the blood vessels of small prey, like a rabbit, to collapse, and the heart to stop working due to heart attack and stroke.
Snakes are also notorious for swallowing prey whole, since they do not have any limbs to tear food apart. They do this by separating their lower jaw from their upper jaw in order to fit large prey into their mouths. There are also rear-facing teeth which keep prey from escaping once in the mouth. Once swallowed, the prey will stay in the snake’s body until digested as the snake has very elastic skin.
Snake Venom Is A Potentially Deadly Substance for Humans, But Does It Have Any Beneficial Qualities?
The Answer Is Yes! Similar to The Antibodies Taken from a Rabbit’s Blood, Snake Venom, As Well As Venom from Other Creatures, Has Been Used in Medicine for The Treatment of Diseases and Ailments. What’s Interesting Is That Medicines Created from Venom Work for the Treatment of Disease by Targeting the Same Molecules They Target When Attacking. So, While These Venoms Can Create A Deadly Reaction in the Body, When Created as A Medicine They May Actually Be Helpful to the Body.
When venom is used for medicine, it is actually not the venom itself that is used. It is the toxin. Any given venom may contain a mix of 20-100 toxins. Venomous animals used in medicine include:
- Brazilian Lancehead Viper- This snake’s venom was used to treat high blood pressure. In 1981, it was the first venom-based drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Venomous Marine Snails- The drug known as “ziconotide” was created from the venom of the cone snail. This drug is used to treat chronic pain.
- Saw-Scaled Viper- The myocardial infarction drug known as “tirofiban” was created from the venom of this viper. Viper venom is supposed to prevent blood from clotting which is useful for anticoagulant drugs.
- Gila Monster- the Gila Monster’s venom was useful in the production of the type 2 diabetes drug known as “exenatide.”
- Sea Anemones- These sea creatures create a toxin that is being used to treat autoimmune diseases.
- Deathstalker Scorpion- The venom from this scorpion has venom which is being used in trials to help locate tumors during surgery.
- King Cobra- There is a specific toxic in the venom of the King Cobra’s venom which shows promise for treating chronic pain.
- Fire-Bellied Toad- The venom from this toad is being used for the development of drugs that help with imaging as well as the identification of prostate cancer.
So, We Know Rabbits Are Immune to Snake Venom, But Are They Immune to Venom from Other Creatures?
The Answer Is Yes. Rabbits Have Been Shown to Have Immunity to Bites and Stings from Venomous Spiders, Bees, and Jellyfish as Well. Rabbits have Been Shown to Help in The Production of Antivenoms for Bites and Stings Given by These Venomous Animals. Rabbits Are Versatile in the Number of Venomous Creatures They Are Immune To, Making Them A Vital Resource When It Comes to Antivenom Production. Having the Ability to Harvest Antibodies from A Rabbit for Snake Venom and Many Other Kinds Creates an Opportunity to Save Lives of Animals and Humans Who Are Not Immune.
The exact number of bites delivering venom are unknown, however an approximation of 5.4 million people are bitten each year worldwide, with 2.7 envenomings. Out of these people, 81,000 to 138,000 people die each year, and about three times as many suffer from amputations or other permanent disabilities caused by venomous bites. The majority of these significant impacts are occurring in areas where antivenoms are not a very accessible resource, and snake bites are a neglected health issue. The need for these antivenoms is great. Without them, millions of lives would be lost each year.
If there were not animals who are immune to this venom, such as rabbits, goats, horses, and sheep, we would have no way to retrieve the antibodies necessary to save so many lives. The fatally rate is so much higher in areas where this necessary resource is not available. As you can see, these types of venom are a great threat to humans, so it is vital to have resources to combat them.
It is true, rabbits are immune to not only venom from snakes, but venom from many other species as well.
While rabbits are immune to the venom from snakes, they are still considered a prey animal of the snake. They are at risk of a snake’s signature constricting move or being swallowed whole and being eaten as a meal.
Since rabbits are immune to the venom of snakes and other animals, this makes them capable of assisting in the creation of antivenoms. The rabbit is able to create antibodies to protect itself from the venom of the creature producing it, and because of this the venom can be harvested for medical purposes. Because of animals like rabbits, millions of lives are saved every year. Millions of people fall victim to venomous bites and stings, and the antivenom treatment cuts the fatally rate down greatly.