Many kinds of animals, including mammals (e.g., the northern short-tailed shrew, Blarina brevicauda), reptiles (e.g., the king cobra), spiders (e.g., black widows), insects (e.g., wasps), and fish (e.g., stone fish) employ venom for hunting and for self-defense.
Some venoms are applied externally, especially to sensitive tissues such as the eyes, but most venoms are administered by piercing the skin of the victim. Venom in the saliva of the Gila monster and some other reptiles enters prey through bites of grooved teeth. More commonly animals have specialized organs such as hollow teeth (fangs) and tubular stingers that penetrate the prey's skin, whereupon muscles attached to the attacker's venom reservoir squirt venom deep within the victim's body tissue. Death may occur as a result of bites or stings. The rate of envenoming is described as the likelihood of venom successfully entering a system upon bite or sting.
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosing snake envenomation is a crucial step in determining which antivenom is to be applied. Each year there are around 2 million cases of snake envenomation and up to 100,000 deaths worldwide. Various anti-venom treatments exist, typically consisting of antibodies or antibody fragments, which neutralize the venom. Certain snakes require certain treatments, such as pit vipers and coral snakes. Anti-venom therapy is designed to treat the hemorrhaging and coagulation effects that venom has on humans.
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- Maduwage, Kalana; O'Leary, Margaret A.; Isbister, Geoffrey K. (2014). "Diagnosis of snake envenomation using a simple phospholipase A2 assay". Scientific Reports. 4: 4827. doi:10.1038/srep04827. PMC 4003729. PMID 24777205.
- GRAUDINS, A., M. J. LITTLE, S. S. PINEDA, P. G. HAINS, G. F. KING et al., 2012 Cloning and activity of a novel α-latrotoxin from red-back spider venom. Biochemical Pharmacology 83: 170–183.
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