Snake venom: dangers, complications and curiosities



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Snake venom: dangers, complications and curiosities

Snake Toxicity, a study published on the StatPearls, makes a very comprehensive retrospective on the dangers, complications and curiosities of snake venom.
We can read: "Venomous snakes inflict considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide, although specific data on the total number of venomous snakebites globally are lacking.

In the United States, approximately 7,000 to 8,000 venomous snakebites occur each year, with about 5 to 10 deaths per year. Worldwide, the morbidity and mortality of snake bites are far greater. Despite this, very limited time is spent in traditional medical curricula on the diagnosis and treatment of snake bites.

This CME activity seeks to fill that gap and review the role of the interprofessional team in this condition. Venomous snakes inflict considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide, although specific data on the total number of venomous snakebites globally are lacking.

In the United States, approximately 7,000 to 8,000 venomous snakebites occur each year, with about 5 to 10 deaths reported per year, although there is no mandated reporting for snakebites, so these data are likely incomplete.

Notably, bees are responsible for significantly more deaths than snakes in the United States. Patients with venomous snakebites present with signs and symptoms that can include superficial puncture wounds, localized pain and swelling, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramping, dizziness, numbness, tingling around the mouth, dyspnea, life-threatening coagulopathy, and shock.

There are about 3,000 species of snakes worldwide; 10% to 15% of them are venomous. Snakes primarily use their venom to obtain food. In the United States, greater than 95 percent of snakebites are caused by the Crotalidae ("pit viper") family of snakes, so named because of heat-sensitive "pits" between the eyes and the nostrils used to sense their prey.

Venomous snakes in the United States were previously classified as having either hemotoxic or neurotoxic venom, although more recent toxicology research suggests this binary classification is inadequate. The venom contains proteins, phospholipases, enzymes that can cause necrosis and hemolysis via mechanisms that are still under study.

The initial management of suspected or confirmed venomous snakebite patients is divided into pre-hospital and emergency department care. If treated promptly, the prognosis of most venomous snakebites in the United States is quite good.

It is estimated that 25 percent of snakebites from venomous snakes do not result in envenomation. Moreover, several thousand venomous snakebites each year in this country, there are usually less than 10 reported deaths. Deaths that do occur are generally in those who delay or avoid treatment. "