Bloodstains, red wine, coffee...Venom to the rescue!

New experiments on the Florida cottonmouth, one of the baddest of poisonous snakes, shows its deadly venom has a happy side-effect. It powers out blood stains in laundry.

Not just any blood stains, either. Cottonmouth venom will lift dried blood from white jeans.

The cottonmouth, also known as the water moccasin, injects its victims with poison that contains an enzyme to prevent blood from clotting. This helps the snake kill prey because the victim's body can't seal the area around the bite with a scab. The blood keeps flowing, carrying its venom.

The key seems to be a fibrinolytic enzyme - one that breaks up a blood protein called fibrin, whose tough fibrous strands normally reinforce a clump of platelet cells to form a patch over breaches in the walls of blood vessels, reports

As a side project, biochemist Devin Iimoto of Whittier College in California assigned two undergraduates to test if using the enzymes could remove bloodstains better than detergent alone.

Bloodstains are often difficult to remove from clothes because of the clotting. Scientists can buy the Florida Cottonmouth venom commercially since it is used to produce antivenin. The researchers isolated a non-toxic enzyme from the venom. They say it likely facilitates the spread of toxin by hampering the body's attempt to seal wounds. In the preliminary tests, the team applied the enzyme to spots of blood that air-dried for one hour on pieces of white denim. They laundered the samples with untreated bloodstained controls in a washing machine with common laundry detergent and warm water, inform

The idea to investigate a possible laundry application for the cottonmouth enzyme was sparked by a similar British study that used a different enzyme involved in blood clotting. That study was unsuccessful in removing bloodstains, but Iimoto felt that the venom enzyme might fare better if left in contact with the stain for a longer period and, he added, it would be an interesting research project for his students.

Iimoto and his students, Ryan Guillory and Mandar Khanal, extracted the enzyme from commercially available venom milked from the Florida cottonmouth, or water moccasin. In their tests with bloodstains, they varied such factors as the concentration of enzyme, the time it was allowed to work on the blood - Iimoto’s own, drawn by the school nurse - and whether a series of several small applications of enzyme solution worked better than one larger one, according to

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