, Volume 70, Issue 24, pp 4645-4658
Date: 09 May 2013

Snake venoms: attractive antimicrobial proteinaceous compounds for therapeutic purposes

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Gram-positive and -negative bacteria are dangerous pathogens that may cause human infection diseases, especially due to the increasingly high prevalence of antibiotic resistance, which is becoming one of the most alarming clinical problems. In the search for novel antimicrobial compounds, snake venoms represent a rich source for such compounds, which are produced by specialized glands in the snake’s jawbone. Several venom compounds have been used for antimicrobial effects. Among them are phospholipases A2, which hydrolyze phospholipids and could act on bacterial cell surfaces. Moreover, metalloproteinases and l-amino acid oxidases, which represent important enzyme classes with antimicrobial properties, are investigated in this study. Finally, antimicrobial peptides from multiple classes are also found in snake venoms and will be mentioned. All these molecules have demonstrated an interesting alternative for controlling microorganisms that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, contributing in medicine due to their differential mechanisms of action and versatility. In this review, snake venom antimicrobial compounds will be focused on, including their enormous biotechnological applications for drug development.