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Transcript of Poisonous animals and plants - Poisonous species (N.B. Venomous species use poisons for attack,...

  • Poisonous animals and plants

    Dr Tim HealingDip.Clin.Micro, DMCC, CBIOL, FZS, FRSB

    Course Director,

    Course in Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine

    Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London

    Faculty of Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine

  • Animal and plant


    In most instances the

    numbers of people

    affected will be small

    There are a few

    instances where

    larger numbers may

    be involved mainly

    due to food-borne


  • Poisonous species(N.B. Venomous species use poisons for

    attack, poisonous animals and plants for passive defence)

    Venomous and poisonous animals Reptiles (snakes)

    Amphibians (dart frogs)

    Arthropods (scorpions, spiders, wasps, bees, centipedes)

    Aquatic animals (fish, jellyfish, octopi)

    Poisonous plants Contact stinging (nettles, poison ivy,


    Poisonous by ingestion (fungi, berries of some plants)

    Some algae

  • Snakes

  • Venomous Snakes

    About 600 species of snake are venomous (ca. 25% of all snake species). Four main groups:

    Elapidae (elapids). Mambas, Cobras, King cobras, Kraits, Taipans, Sea snakes, Brown snakes, Coral snakes.

    Viperidae (viperids). True vipers and pit vipers (including Rattlesnakes, Copperheads and Cottonmouths)

    Colubridae (colubrids). Mostly harmless, but includes the Boomslang

    Atractaspididae (atractaspidids). Burrowing asps, Mole vipers, Stiletto snakes.

  • Geographical


    Elapidae: On land, worldwide in tropical and

    subtropical regions, except in Europe.

    Sea snakes occur in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific

    Viperidae: The Americas, Africa and Eurasia.

    Boomslangs (tree snakes Colubridae)) Sub-Saharan Africa

    Atractaspididae: Africa and the Middle East

  • Snakebite

    Mostly in agricultural and tropical regions

    Victims typically male 1727Y

    Children and the elderly are the most likely to die

    Actual frequency unknown. Estimates vary widely.

    1.1 5.5 million snakebites

    420,000 - 2.5 million envenomings

    20,00 - 125,000 deaths

    Many survivors may have permanent disabilities

  • Snake venoms

    Very complex mixes of toxins which include: Neurotoxins - act on the nervous system and brain

    Proteolytics (proteases) beak down the molecular structure of the area surrounding and including the bite.

    Cytotoxins - localized action at the site of the bite.

    Haemotoxins cause haemolysis and act on the heart and cardiovascular system.

    In broad terms: Elapid venoms are mainly neurotoxic

    Viperid venoms are mainly cytotoxic/proteolytic

    Boomslang venoms are haemotoxic

  • Effects of snake venoms

    Elapid venoms (neurotoxic) disable muscle contraction

    cause paralysis

    death is usually due to asphyxiation when the diaphragm is paralysed

  • Effects of snake venoms

    Viperid venoms (cytotoxic/proteolytic): pain

    severe local swelling


    blood loss from cardiovascular damage complicated by coagulopathy

    disruption of the blood clotting system.

    death is usually caused by collapse in blood pressure.

  • Effects of snake venoms

    Boomslang venoms (haemotoxic) Symptoms may be slow to develop




    mental disorder

    death is usually due to internal and external bleeding

    Venom types and effects are a not invariably associated with particular families of snakes

    some elapid bites include proteolytic symptoms

    some viperid bites produce neurotoxic symptoms.

  • Symptoms and signs of snakebite

    Initial symptoms (even if no bite or no venom injected) Over-breathing leading to:

    Pins and needles in extremities

    Stiffness of hands and feet


    Vasovagal shock

    Agitation, irrationality

    Increased blood pressure & heart rate


    Sweating & trembling

  • Symptoms and signs of snakebite

    with envenomation Local symptoms & signs

    Fang marks

    Immediate pain of bite

    Local pain (burning, bursting, throbbing)

    Local swelling extending proximally up affected limb

    Lymphangitis and tender, painful enlargement of lymph nodes draining bite site


    Local infection


    (NB. Bites of Kraits and Sea snakes may be virtually painless with little swelling)

  • Symptoms and signs of snakebite

    with envenomation

    Systemic symptoms and signs





    Abdominal pain




  • Symptoms and signs of snakebite


    Cardiovascular Visual disturbance

    Dizziness, fainting




    Cardiac arrythmia

    Pulmonary oedema

    Conjunctival oedema

    Bleeding & clotting disorders Bleeding from wounds

    Spontaneous systemic bleeding (multiple sites)

    Extensive tissue necrosis Severe scarring

    Possible need to amputate

  • Symptoms and signs of snakebite


    Neurological Drowsiness

    Paraesthesia (abnormal sensations in the skin)

    Abnormalities of taste and smell

    Heavy eyelids, ptosis

    External opthalmoplegia

    Paralysis of muscles innervated by cranial nerves (esp facial)

    Nasal voice/aphonia

    Regugitation through nose

    Difficulty in swallowing secretions

    Respiratory and generalised flaccid paralysis

  • Key references for

    treatment of


    Both of these are

    downloadable from the WHO


  • Treatment of snakebite

    Aims of initial treatment

    Attempt to retard systemic absorption of


    Preserve life and prevent complications

    Control distressing or dangerous early

    symptoms of envenoming

    Transport patient to medical care


  • Treatment of snakebite

    Try to identify the snake Important because of different types of venom

    Different anti-venins are needed for different snakes

    Do not attempt to kill it Danger to you

    If it has been killed be aware that the head of a dead snake can still envenom Do not try to cut the head off

    Photograph it if possible

    Do not get distracted by this process and delay treating the patient!

  • Treatment of snakebite First aid

    General Check that the person has been bitten

    Reassure (anxiety can raise blood pressure and increase rate of distribution of venom)

    Immobilise (lay down, immobilise affected limb in splint/sling)

    No food especially alcohol

    Remove items that could constrict affected limb (clothing, jewellery etc).

    Pressure immobilisation for elapid bites

    Do NOT interfere with bite wound: Incision

    Rubbing, massage

    Vigorous cleaning, application of potassium permangenate

    Sucking (either by mouth or pump ineffective and dangerous to all involved!)

    Electroshock therapy

    Tourniquets not recommended

    Risk of fatal respiratory paralysis or shock Rapid transport to hospital

  • Treatment of snakebite - general

    Do you need to and can you transport the patient to higher levels of

    the health service?

    Analgesia (oral or parenteral) (not aspirin or NSAIDs which can

    cause bleeding).

    Treat for hypovolaemic shock

    Antivenom treatment

    Respiratory paralysis - O2 by mask or ventilate

    Acute renal failure - peritoneal dialysis

    Severe bleeding - blood transfusion

    Discourage the use of ineffective and potentially harmful drugs (e.g.

    corticosteroids, antihistamines, and heparin)

  • Treatment of the bitten limb

    May be painful and swollen

    Nurse in the most comfortable position,

    Do not elevate excessively

    may reduce arterial perfusion pressure &

    increase risk of intra-compartmental


    Bullae may be large and tense - only

    aspirate if they seem likely to rupture

  • Pressure immobilisation

    Aim is to contain venom within a bitten

    limb & prevent it from moving through the

    lymphatic system

    pressure prevents lymphatic drainage

    immobilization prevents the pumping action of

    the muscles

    Not suitable for cytotoxic bites (viperidae)

    May be effective against neurotoxic

    venoms (elapidae) - prevent rapid onset of

    respiratory paralysis

  • Pressure imobilisation

    Bind bandage around affected limb starting distally

    Include a rigid splint

    Bind firmly but do not occlude peripheral pulse

    DO NOT REMOVE BINDING until patient is at treatment centre and anti-venom treatment has begun(Removal can cause a

    flood of venom into the system)

  • Anti-venoms (anti-venins)

    Divided into: monovalent (effective against a single species)

    polyvalent (effective against several different species)

    Usually made by (relatively) local labs for local species

    Produced in suitable animals (horse, sheep)

    Some are freeze dried, some need refrigeration

    Injected IV

    Cannot undo damage already caused by venom

    Can cause immediate or delayed hypersensitivity reactions

  • Treatment of spitting cobra

    envenomation Found in Africa and Asia

    Can spray venom forwards up to 2 metres

    Aim for the eyes