Photo/IllutrationBy cracking the genome of highly poisonous habu snakes, researchers say it could lead to an effective antivenom. This picture shows a habu snake and its toxin. (Provided by Hiroki Shibata, associate professor of Kyushu University)

Researchers in Japan have decoded the genome sequence of highly poisonous habu snakes that inhabit the southwestern Nansei Islands, offering the prospect of an effective antivenom.

The finding by the team mainly from Kyushu University and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University was published in the online edition of British journal Scientific Reports on July 26.

The venom from a habu snake bite can kill. Until now, the mechanism of how the powerful venom is produced was not understood.

The team headed by Hiroki Shibata, an associate professor of genetics at Kyushu University, analyzed the entire genome sequence of habu snakes from Amami-Oshima island, Kagoshima Prefecture, and found that 60 of the 25,000 or so genes create the toxin components.

It also clarified how the genes evolved, which led to the understanding that the toxin rapidly diversified. Among its other findings, the team said it may have stumbled on a new substance to dissolve blood clots.

"Decoding the genome allows us to examine how the toxin is created in detail," Shibata said. "We hope that our research will prove beneficial to society.”