A new study has found that anti-venom shots may not be able to reverse nerve damage caused by the venom of the death adder, a species native to Australia.
The Australian Snakebite Project (ASP) researchers announced the results after members of the West Australian Center for Medical Research and the University of Western Australia joined hands to investigate the efficacy of anti-venom treatment.
The ASP study recruited 29 patients with death adder bites. Poisoning occurred in 14 cases. Of these, 12 developed a range of neurological effects. Mechanical ventilation was required for two patients. Thirteen patients received anti-venom, all receiving one vial initially.
The study confirmed that neurotoxicity is the main feature of death adder envenoming (poisoning) and in the majority of cases, life threatening paralysis does not develop.
Results showed that one vial of anti-venom was enough to bind all circulating death adder venom, according to an ASP statement.
However, the team found that anti-venom had little effect on neurotoxicity that had already developed in envenomed patients taking, on average, a day to resolve after anti-venom was given.
"We were surprised that anti-venom did not reverse neurotoxicity, effects persisted despite anti-venom. In two cases with severe neurotoxicity, even large doses of anti-venom did not reverse the effects," says Geoff Isbister from ASP.