Marine Neurotoxins: Envenomations and Contact Toxins

Michael R. Watters, Elijah W. Stommel
Current Treatment Options in Neurology 2004, 6 (2): 115-123
Familiarity with the appearance and habitat of venomous sea creatures, the location of their stinging apparatus, and surveillance of population concentrations within recreational waters are essential in avoiding envenomations. Compared with the thermo-stable low molecular weighted ingestible seafood toxins, venomous toxins are often large molecular weight proteins and many are heat labile, which provides opportunity for therapeutic intervention. Heat therapy may denature the toxins, and provide immediate relief of pain in coelenterate and venomous fish envenomations. Injections of local anesthetic agents may also be used. First aid measures at the seashore may limit the spread of venom, and include immobilization of the affected sites, compression bandaging, and venous-lymphatic occlusive bandages. Measures to limit continued envenomation by attached stinging cells include topical vinegar for jellyfish tentacles and irrigation with debridment for spines of venomous fish. Antivenins are of limited availability and may be used for envenomations with sea snakes, Chironex box jellyfish, and some venomous fish. Sea snakes bites may be treated with antivenin from land snakes or with hemodialysis when antivenin is not available. Neuromuscular paralysis occurs with bites by sea snakes, cone snails, blue octopuses, and some jellyfish. Supportive treatment includes attention to cardiopulmonary resuscitation and intubation. Exposure to Pfeisteria may result in cognitive and behavioral abnormalities. Treatment with cholestyramine may be helpful in binding the toxin and improve recovery.

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