Effect of snakebite envenoming on blood cell ultrastructure and coagulation in humans

Dr Morné Strydom

(Research Leader) https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8144-4970                                           

Snakebite envenoming has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a neglected tropical disease that is responsible for tremendous suffering, disability and mortality around the globe. The typical encounter between human and snake is usually unpleasant and frightening for both parties, which may end in devastation for both, driven by mutual fear. Humans often sustain a snakebite by accidently stepping on it in the field, or by threating it by trying to corner and catch it. Due to the lack of fast and reliable snake identification at hospital level, most cases of snakebite appropriate clinical management require reliable identification of a distinctive clinical syndrome based on epidemiological, clinical and laboratory data. It is interesting to note that all venomous snakebites will affect blood coagulation to some or other degree, implicating a haemotoxic profile for all venomous snakes at various grades of intensities. This gives us the opportunity for a more in-depth investigation of this common ground phenomenon, which may give us better insights into possible species specific differences by assessing their effects on human blood. This has the potential to bring us closer to snake identification on a biochemical level.

Our research team study the effects of snake venom on blood cell ultrastructure and coagulation in humans, with special reference to diagnostic markers and toxicology, by incorporating various techniques including haematology analysers, thromboelastography (TEG), turbidimetry, microscopy (light, confocal and scanning electron), and flow cytometry. The aim of our research is to investigate the effects of venom from various Southern African snake species which are known to deliver a clinical significant bite and envenomation, to profile and compare its effects on blood cell ultrastructure and coagulation, in order to access whether the results could be of diagnostic value to confirm envenomation and potentially snake identification in future.


  • Internal Research Team Member: Prof Janette Bester (Department of Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa)
  • External Research Advisor: Prof Resia Pretorius (Physiological Sciences Department, Faculty of Science, Stellenbosch University, South Africa)
  • AEC Approved Venom Suppliers: Mr Johan Marais (African Snakebite Institute, Mr Mike Perry (African Reptiles & Venom), Mr Chris Hopkirk (Lowveld Venom Suppliers)

Applicable research levels: 

  • Basic sciences research at MSc or PhD level
  • Clinical and Regulatory sciences at MSc level

Minimum skillsets at MSc and PhD levels: 

  • Prior knowledge of laboratory sciences would be preferred (e.g. microscopy, thromboelastrography, flow cytometry) (MSc and PhD Levels)
  • Scoping reviews (MSc and PhD Levels)
  • Document analysis (PhD Level)


  • Ms Christie Megaw (MSc Candidate 2023); Ms Ramsha Majeed (MSc Candidate 2023); Courtney Hill (MSc Candidate 2024); Carolyn Nadasen (PhD Candidate 2024), Heinrich Smuts (PhD Candidate 2024)

Vacancies and Enquiries:

  • This research focus area is a collaboration project between Department of Pharmacology (Dr Morné Strydom – Extraordinary Lecturer) and Department of Physiology (Prof Janette Bester – Associate Professor).
  • Vacancies for MSc and PhD candidates are only considered on prior discussion with the research team leaders. We encourage interested candidates to reach out to either Dr Morné Strydom (Email: [email protected]) or Prof Janette Bester (Email: [email protected]) before applying for postgraduate studies within this field.
  • Vacancies anticipated for 2025 intake: MSc Candidates (Two), PhD (One)


  1. Strydom MA. et al. The effect of physiological levels of South African puff adder (Bitis arietans) snake venom on blood cells: an in vitro model. Sci Rep 6, 35988 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep35988
  2. Hardcastle TC. Introductory editorial: Snakebite CME series. South African Medical Journal. 2023 May 1;113(5):1188-9. https://doi.org/10.7196/SAMJ.2023.v113i5.1018
  3. Hardcastle TC, Engelbrecht A, Lalloo V, Bell C, Toubkin M. Approach to the diagnosis and management of snakebite envenomation in South Africa in humans: The hospital phase–emergency unit general principles. South African Medical Journal. 2023 Jun 1;113(6):1192-8. https://doi.org/10.7196/SAMJ.2023.v113i6.1037

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