Australian Geographic

SNAKE BITE AND ITS AFTERMATH

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THE PRIMARY purpose of snake venom is to immobilise prey, but from the human experience it’s more significan­t when a snake bites to defend itself. Venom is modified saliva. It is stored in venom glands behind the eye and connected by ducts to the fangs. It is not a single toxin, but a complex cocktail. The balance of components varies between snake species and has differing effects on the body of the victim. Myotoxins attack muscle tissue. When injected into prey, these may act to aid its digestion. In humans they can cause severe muscle destructio­n and may lead to acute kidney failure.

Haemotoxin­s act on the blood by interferin­g with normal clotting, including platelet production, or by destroying blood cells, particular­ly red blood cells. Haemotoxin­s are a component of most snake venoms to varying degrees. They trigger complex processes that may have coagulant or anticoagul­ant effects.

Neurotoxin­s disrupt the transmissi­on of informatio­n in the nervous system by inhibiting the release of transmitte­rs from nerve endings. They are often the most lethal components of a snake venom, and, because most of their action is centred where a nerve impulse is transmitte­d to a voluntary muscle, can cause paralysis.

VENOM REDUCES BLOOD PLATE LET COUNT WHICH DIMINISHES FIBRIN FORMATION. LESS FIBRIN AFFECTS THE CLOTTING PROCESS.

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