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Toxins 2018, 10(4), 170;

Snakebite: When the Human Touch Becomes a Bad Touch

Venom Evolution Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
Received: 7 April 2018 / Revised: 19 April 2018 / Accepted: 20 April 2018 / Published: 21 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Toxins:10th Anniversary)
PDF [457 KB, uploaded 3 May 2018]


Many issues and complications in treating snakebite are a result of poor human social, economic and clinical intervention and management. As such, there is scope for significant improvements for reducing incidence and increasing patient outcomes. Snakes do not target humans as prey, but as our dwellings and farms expand ever farther and climate change increases snake activity periods, accidental encounters with snakes seeking water and prey increase drastically. Despite its long history, the snakebite crisis is neglected, ignored, underestimated and fundamentally misunderstood. Tens of thousands of lives are lost to snakebites each year and hundreds of thousands of people will survive with some form of permanent damage and reduced work capacity. These numbers are well recognized as being gross underestimations due to poor to non-existent record keeping in some of the most affected areas. These underestimations complicate achieving the proper recognition of snakebite’s socioeconomic impact and thus securing foreign aid to help alleviate this global crisis. Antivenoms are expensive and hospitals are few and far between, leaving people to seek help from traditional healers or use other forms of ineffective treatment. In some cases, cheaper, inappropriately manufactured antivenom from other regions is used despite no evidence for their efficacy, with often robust data demonstrating they are woefully ineffective in neutralizing many venoms for which they are marketed for. Inappropriate first-aid and treatments include cutting the wound, tourniquets, electrical shock, immersion in ice water, and use of ineffective herbal remedies by traditional healers. Even in the developed world, there are fundamental controversies including fasciotomy, pressure bandages, antivenom dosage, premedication such as adrenalin, and lack of antivenom for exotic snakebites in the pet trade. This review explores the myriad of human-origin factors that influence the trajectory of global snakebite causes and treatment failures and illustrate that snakebite is as much a sociological and economic problem as it is a medical one. Reducing the incidence and frequency of such controllable factors are therefore realistic targets to help alleviate the global snakebite burden as incremental improvements across several areas will have a strong cumulative effect. View Full-Text
Keywords: snakebite; envenomation; venom; antivenom snakebite; envenomation; venom; antivenom
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Fry, B.G. Snakebite: When the Human Touch Becomes a Bad Touch. Toxins 2018, 10, 170.

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