The Real Reason Snake Venom Is More Valuable Than Gold

According to the World Health Organization, there are over 3,000 species of snakes in the world, but only 200-300 of them are venomous. One venomous species, the Inland Taipan, for example, is considered the deadliest snake in the world, producing enough venom to kill 100 people with a single bite (via Zee News). Every year, nearly 140,000 people die after having a fatal encounter with one of them, BBC reported.

To no one's surprise, snakes are among the most feared animals, and they are part of the collective imagination as a symbol of evil and chaos. Despite their reputation, they are crucial in keeping the ecosystem's balance (via Save The Snakes). They are also a valuable asset for science, and over 200 species are useful for medicine, especially for antivenom production.

Snakes bite approximately 4.5 million people per year, 8,000 of them just in the United States (via CDC), which means antivenom is a high-demand product in many countries — and so is snake venom.

Snakes venom is not only used in antivenom

Snakes produce venom to defeat their prey and also to protect themselves against predators. According to Let's Talk Science, it is produced by the salivary glands on the back of their heads and is released when they bite something.

A single dose of antivenom can cost up to $14,000 for a patient, Smithsonian Magazine reported. To produce it, researchers force a snake to bite the edge of a jar, dripping the venom. The amount of venom produced by a snake depends on the species and size; according to the University of Florida, the amount might vary from 1-850mg ("or more," notes the university). The next step is to inject it inside an animal and later collect its antibodies.

Each species produces a different type of venom, and it can be used for treating pain, reducing blood clots, and even in beauty treatments. King cobra's venom, for example, is rich in protein and is used in medications to treat chronic pain. It costs $153,000 per gallon, the second-most expensive venom on Earth (via Modern Farmer).

Coral and Brown snake venom costs $4,000 per gram. While Coral's venom is used to produce antiviral and antibacterial medications, the Brown snake is used in antivenom production.