The immune response involves a complex repertoire of innate and adaptive responses to foreign agents in the organism. The present review focuses on the immune response to snake venoms, including those occurring in snakebite accidental envenomation, experimental vaccination and animal hyperimmunization for snake antivenom production. The following aspects are considered: (a) the structural characteristics of snake toxins and their relationship to immunogenicity, (b) the effects that factors such as administration route, venom dose, type of adjuvant, and individual and species characteristics of the immunized animal have on the immune response, (c) the initial venom-induced inflammatory response, (d) the process by which specific antibodies towards individual toxins are produced, and (e) the techniques currently used to evaluate the antibody response. Understanding the immune response to snake venoms is highly relevant for improving antivenom production and for gaining a more complete view of snakebite envenoming.
Keywords: Snake venoms, immunogens, immunization, immune response, antivenoms, snakebite, experimental vaccination, snake toxins, antivenom production, Phospholipases, Metalloproteinases
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