Post 106 – Spotlight on Snakebites

There’s so much anatomy-wise going on in our world right now. I have a list of 50-some topics I would love to write about, just so little time! Last day of the month, so I looked at my list I added from the past days, and saw I haven’t talked about the TV star of “Snake Salvation” died of a … snakebite.

It was preventable too. The pastor on the show, Jamie Coots, refused treatment for the bite and died a few hours later. On “Snake Salvation,” the ardent Pentecostal believer said that he believed that a passage in the Bible suggests poisonous snakebites will not harm believers as long as they are anointed by God. The practice is illegal in most states, but still goes on, primarily in the rural South.

Snakes Locally

Seeing this article reminded me of when I was living in northern Los Angeles County. I knew the hosptials up there kept a supply of snake antivenom because of the high numbers of poisonous snakes in the desert and near-desert, including the very poisonous Mojave Green rattlesnake.

An article in the Antelope Valley Press from September 29, 2000, talks about one patient being bit by that rattlesnake and needing 32 vials of antivenom to survive. Normally it takes 10-15 vials to treat most snakebites. The Antelope Valley Hospital, which usually has 20-25 of the antivenom vials on hand, had to seek more from Edwards Air Force Base and even a local veterinary clinic!

I know that Henry Mayo Hosptial in Santa Clarita Valley also carries antivenom, which range in price from $400 to 800 PER VIAL!

Anatomy/Physiology: what happens with the venom?

Specific components of venom can cause changes in the human body. Venom is mostly proteins and polypeptides. Some protein enzymes (fasciculins) may destroy acetylcholinesterase, which removes the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine(ACh)  so the impulse signal will stop between the nerve and muscle. If the signal doesn’t stop, the muscle stays contracted, which is called tetany, and may cause death.

Other venom may have proteins that fit into the ACh receptors on the muscle and block the ACh that is coming from the nerve – this leads to numbness and paralysis. If the venom spreads to the diaphragm, then the patient can’t breathe.

Hemotoxins destroy red blood cells or cause blood to clot. This is one way the Mojave Green rattlesnake’s venom works. Its venom is both a neurotoxin and a hemotoxin.

National Poison Control (24/7) = 800-222-1222, or call 9-1-1

References:

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