Antivenom

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Antivenom is a biological product used in the treatment of venomous bites or stings. Antivenom is created by milking venom from the desired snake, spider or insect. The venom is then diluted and injected into a horse, sheep, goat or cat. The subject animal will undergo an immune response to the venom, producing antibodies against the venom's active molecule which can then be harvested from the animal's blood and used to treat envenomation. Internationally, antivenoms must conform to the standards of Pharmacopoeia and the World Health Organization (WHO). The principle of antivenom is based on that of vaccines, developed by Edward Jenner; however, instead of inducing immunity in the patient directly, it is induced in a host animal and the hyperimmunized serum is transfused into the patient. Antivenoms can be classified into monovalent (when they are effective against a given species' venom) or polyvalent (when they are effective against a range of species, or several different species at the same time). Antivenoms for therapeutic use are often preserved as freeze-dried ampoules, but some are available only in liquid form and must be kept refrigerated. (They are not immediately inactivated by heat, so a minor gap in the cold chain is not disastrous.) The majority of antivenoms (including all snake antivenoms) are administered intravenously; however, stonefish and redback spider antivenoms are given intramuscularly. The intramuscular route has been questioned in some situations as not uniformly effective. Antivenoms bind to and neutralize the venom, halting further damage, but do not reverse damage already done. Thus, they should be administered as soon as possible after the venom has been injected, but are of some benefit as long as venom is present in the body. Since the advent of antivenoms, some bites which were previously inevitably fatal have become only rarely fatal provided that the antivenom is administered soon enough. In the U.S. the only approved antivenom for pit viper (rattlesnake, copperhead and water moccasin) snakebite is based on a purified product made in sheep known as CroFab. It was approved by the FDA in October, 2000. U.S. coral snake antivenom is no longer manufactured, and remaining stocks of in-date antivenom for coral snakebite expired in the Fall of 2009, leaving the U.S. without a Coral snake antivenom. Efforts are being made to obtain approval for a coral snake antivenom produced in Mexico which would work against U.S. coral snakebite, but such approval remains speculative. In the absence of antivenom, all coral snakebite should be treated in a hospital by elective endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation until the effects of coral snake neurotoxins abate. It is important to remember that respiratory paralysis in coral snakebite can occur suddenly, often up to 12 or more hours after the bite, so intubation and ventilation should be employed in anticipation of respiratory failure and not after it occurs, when it may be too late. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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