The Straight (And Terrifying) Poop

We've all heard the old saw: What you don't know won't hurt you. Until, of course, it does.

Consider the humble vine snake. Its slender, intensely green appearance means it can be mistaken for…a vine, so as to make its prey more unsuspecting, and hence more accessible. Not of great peril to humankind, on the surface.

But beneath that humble appearance lies a mystery, and a truly frightening prospect for unsuspecting humankind.

It seems that the excreta (i.e. the "scat") of the vine snake found in the rain forests of Northern Western Ghats (Southwestern India) has been discovered to contain bacteria that are resistant to many drugs. Specifically, 35 different kinds of antibiotics. That's a LOT of danger within that noodle.

Snake poop isn't the happiest topic in any circumstance, but in this case, it gets very bad, very fast. In the rainy season, the scat can come into contact with humans via water or, at other times, (Warning: major ick incoming) by being aerosolized. Furthermore, what is excreted was… once inside the snake. The vine snake's bite itself is only mildly venomous. But its relative lack of venom belies a greater peril. For even if a snakebite isn't in itself venomous (as opposed to poisonous, which is when you eat something that is harmful, not when it tries to eat YOU), a bite can do significant damage IF the snake's saliva contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (This is also true of other non-venomous reptiles such as the Komodo dragon, whose mouth contains all kinds of nasty microorganisms that are lethally infectious). Complications to humans mentioned in the article include infections progressing to necrosis, gangrene, and necrotizing fasciitis.

This bad news means that there needs to be significant (and immediate) strides in research to bring this area of infection into study, along with development of new treatments for any human beings who come into contact with snakes of many kinds.

But for now, it's clear: best not to tango with (or get tangled up in) the vine snake!