Pharmacology and Pathophysiology of Venom

This chapter is not intended to discuss, in detail, the properties of snake venoms; the reader is referred elsewhere for a thorough review. Snake venoms have greater biochemical complexity than any other toxin of animal origin and are probably the most highly concentrated secretion products found in vertebrates (7,12).

Crotaline venom is a complex heterogeneous solution and suspension of 30 to 40 different proteins, peptides, lipids, carbohydrates, and enzymes. Snake venoms can cause multiple clinical effects, including local tissue injury, edema, paralysis, muscle breakdown, and coagulopathy (Table 32.3) (6,7,23,27,36).

In coral snake venom, polypeptide neurotoxins predominate, with curarelike effects. They cause respiratory paralysis by interfering with nicotinic cholinergic neuromuscular receptors. The venom is not associated with hemostatic problems. Coral snake venom is rapidly absorbed via the venous system as opposed to the lymphatic system (12,23,33).

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