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Russian Scientists Ask for Data on Radioactive Snake Venom

February 4, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two Russian scientists are asking colleagues elsewhere for help in measuring radioactive contamination in the former Soviet Union by unorthodox means: analyzing venom from snakes.

In today’s issue of the journal Nature, they asked Western recipients of Russian snake venom to check it for radioactivity.

That information could help determine the extent of contamination from radioactive waste, nuclear accidents and nuclear explosions, they said.

The only venomous snake widespread in the main part of the European zone of the former Soviet Union is the viper Vipera berus, and its migration is limited, they said. Its venom is collected and sold in other countries.

″It is highly likely that the snake venom is contaminated with radioactivity,″ they wrote. In fact, they said, at least one 4-pound consignment of venom was impounded by customs officials because of its radioactivity.

Snake venom has research and medicinal uses. But no medicine licensed in the United States contains snake venom, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The Nature appeal was made by Andrey Nedospasov of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Alexandr Cherkasov of the Kurchatov Institute, both in Moscow.

They asked recipients of Russian venom to measure its radioactivity and notify them of the results, along with the place and date of the venom collection.

″These results will be of great value for people living on contaminated territories and for ecological monitoring,″ they wrote.

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