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Journal Article


Theakston RDG. Ann. Trop. Med. Parasitol. 1997; 91(7): 857-865.


Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, U.K.


(Copyright © 1997, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Publisher Maney Publishing)






Treatment of systemic envenoming in snake-bite victims has, in the past, depended almost entirely on the individual clinician's experience in assessing the severity of envenoming. The efficacy of treatment is obviously related to the neutralizing potency of the antivenom used, the route by which it is administered and the dose. The development of enzyme immunoassays has permitted a more scientific appraisal, allowing estimation of circulating specific venom and antivenom concentrations at any time after the bite in the patient's blood. It is therefore possible to measure accurately the efficacy of antivenom in the neutralization and clearance of venom antigen. In Brazil, it appears that clinicians treat patients with excessive amounts of highly efficient antivenoms and this results in an unacceptably high incidence of reactions. In Sri Lanka, the use of imported, Indian antivenom is relatively ineffective in neutralizing the venoms of Sri Lankan snakes, demonstrating the real problem of venom variability within individual species. In West Africa, the improved clearance of venom following treatment of Echis victims with a monospecific as opposed to a polyspecific antivenom has been demonstrated, and new, smaller fragment, Fab antivenoms have been developed and are now under clinical assessment. Such clinically-based immunological studies should result in more efficient and controlled use of expensive antivenoms for treatment of systemic envenoming and the accurate assessment of newly designed products. Such studies also emphasise the importance of individual countries producing their own antivenoms for treatment of systemic envenoming. Likewise, the use of such objective systems now enables the use of first-aid measures such as tourniquets to be properly assessed.

Language: en


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