Antivenom treatment in arachnidism.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
J Toxicol Clin Toxicol, 2003, 41 (3), pp. 291 - 300
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Envenomation by arachnids causes significant medical illness worldwide. Scorpion sting is the most important arachnid envenomation causing adult morbidity and pediatric mortality. Important groups of spiders include the widow spiders (Latrodectus spp.), the recluse spiders (Loxosceles spp.), and two spiders confined to single countries: the Australian funnel web spider (Atrax and Hadronyche spp.) and the armed spider (Phoneutria spp.) from Brazil. There are four widow spider antivenoms available, including the Australian redback spider antivenom and the American black widow antivenom. Despite good in vitro animal work demonstrating effective neutralization with these antivenoms, and cross-reactivity between many species, there continues to be a reluctance to use them in some countries. They are both associated with a relatively low rate of allergic reactions. Redback antivenom is routinely used by the intramuscular route, which may not be as effective as intravenous use based on clinical experience and animal studies. Antivenoms are available for Loxosceles spp., but there is little evidence to support their effectiveness, particularly against local effects. The Australian funnel web spider causes severe neurotoxic envenomation, and antivenom appears to be effective in reported cases. An antivenom exists for the Brazilian armed spider, but is used in only a minority of cases. Many scorpion antivenoms exist worldwide, but there remains significant controversy regarding their efficacy. Animal and human venom level studies demonstrate neutralization of circulating venom in systemic envenomation. Clinical experience in countries where antivenom has been introduced suggests it has reduced pediatric mortality. However, three controlled trials demonstrated that antivenom was not effective, but these included few severe cases. Until controlled trials of antivenom in systemically envenomated patients are undertaken, antivenom use appears justified in severe envenomation. Although envenomation from arthropods is common, no antivenoms exist for these, excepting Lonomia caterpillars in South America, and Ixodes paralysis ticks in Australia.
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