Antivenin and Antitoxin in the Treatment of Experimental Rattlesnake Venom Intoxication (Crotalus Adamanteus)

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  • Cancer Research Laboratory and Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, University of Florida


The protection afforded by the new polyvalent antivenin preparation (Wyeth), tetanus antitoxin (Wyeth), and polyvalent gas gangrene antitoxin (Lederle) against death in the mouse and local necrosis in the rabbit produced by the venom of the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) was investigated. The microbiological populations of the mouth and venom of several poisonous and non-poisonous North and South American reptiles were sampled and specifically cultured for spore-forming anaerobes.

While the new polyvalent antivenin gave marked protection against death and local necrosis produced by rattlesnake venom, the polyvalent gas gangrene antitoxin and tetanus antitoxin offered no protection against either. Aerobic growth appeared to a greater extent in the oropharynx than in the venom. Anaerobic growth was not obtained in either case.

These results, especially in regard to the relatively sterile nature of the snake venom, suggest that addition to the foreign protein burden in the treatment of snake bite by the administration of large quantities, i.e., therapeutic dose, of tetanus or gas gangrene antitoxin is unnecessary and indeed contraindicated unless laboratory evidence of clostridial contamination exists. This does not imply the prompt prophylactic use of antitetanus serum or tetanus toxoid should be abandoned.