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Marine antivenoms

Bart J Currie
Journal of Toxicology. Clinical Toxicology 2003, 41 (3): 301-8
12807313
There is an enormous diversity and complexity of venoms and poisons in marine animals. Fatalities have occurred from envenoming by sea snakes, jellyfish, venomous fish such as stonefish, cone snails, and blue-ringed octopus. Deaths have also followed ingestion of toxins in shellfish, puffer fish (Fugu), and ciguatoxin-containing fish. However antivenoms are generally only available for envenoming by certain sea snakes, the major Australian box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) and stonefish. There have been difficulties in characterizing the toxins of C. fleckeri venom, and there are conflicting animals studies on the efficacy of C. fleckeri antivenom. The vast majority of C. fleckeri stings are not life-threatening, with painful skin welts the major finding. However fatalities that do occur usually do so within 5 to 20 minutes of the sting. This unprecedented rapid onset of cardiotoxicity in clinical envenoming suggests that antivenom may need to be given very early (within minutes) and possibly in large doses if a life is to be saved. Forty years of anecdotal experience supports the beneficial effect of stonefish antivenom in relieving the excruciating pain after stonefish spine penetration. It remains uncertain whether stonefish antivenom is efficacious in stings from spines of other venomous fish, and the recommendation of giving the antivenom intramuscularly needs reassessment.

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