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Bites by many species of venomous snake may result in local necrosis at, or extending from, the site of the bite. The use of prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection as a complication of local necrotic envenoming is controversial. A double-blind randomized controlled trial was carried out to assess whether antibiotic therapy is effective in this situation. Two hundred and fifty-one patients, with proven envenoming by snakes of the genus Bothrops, admitted to two hospitals in Brazil, between 1990 and 1996, were randomized to receive either oral chloramphenicol (500 mg every six hours for five days) or placebo. One hundred and twenty-two of these patients received chloramphenicol (group 1) and 129 were given placebo (group 2). There were no significant differences between the groups at the time of admission. Necrosis developed in seven (5.7%) patients in group 1 and in five (3.9%) patients in group 2 (P>0.05) while abscesses occurred in six patients (4.9%) in group 1 and in six (4.7%) patients in group 2 (P>0.05). In conclusion, the use of orally-administered chloramphenicol for victims of Bothrops snake bite with signs of local envenoming on admission, is not effective for the prevention of local infections.

Original publication




Journal article


Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg

Publication Date





529 - 534


Abscess, Administration, Oral, Adolescent, Adult, Animals, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Bothrops, Brazil, Child, Child, Preschool, Chloramphenicol, Double-Blind Method, Female, Humans, Infant, Male, Middle Aged, Necrosis, Snake Bites, Treatment Outcome