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The bushmaster (Lachesis muta) of Central and South America, the world's longest pit viper, is capable of injecting a large dose of potent venom when it bites. A 28-year-old man, bitten by a 1.82 m long L. m. muta in Brazil, developed pain and oedema at the bite site, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and sweating. There was peripheral neutrophil leucocytosis and evidence of fibrinogen consumption with secondary activation of the fibrinolytic system. Two hours after the bite, eight ampoules of Instituto Butantan Lachesis antivenom was administered, and haemostasis was normal 24 hr later. A review of reports of 20 cases of bites in humans reliably attributed to this snake in Costa Rica, French Guiana, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela confirms a syndrome of nausea, vomiting, abdominal colic, diarrhoea, sweating, hypotension, bradycardia and shock, possibly autopharmacological or autonomic in origin, not seen in victims of other American crotaline snakes. These, and other symptoms of bushmaster envenoming, are explained by haemorrhagic, coagulant and neurotoxic venom activities. The therapeutic efficacy of non-specific Bothrops/Crotalus polyvalent antivenoms in these cases has been unimpressive. For the treatment of bites by a snake which potentially injects a large dose (> 300 mg dry weight) of venom with a range of life-threatening activities, there is an urgent need to develop more potent specific antivenoms and to treat the dramatic and life-threatening cardiovascular symptoms.


Journal article



Publication Date





545 - 554


Accidents, Occupational, Adult, Animals, Antivenins, Brazil, Crotalid Venoms, Humans, Male, Occupational Diseases, Snake Bites, Viperidae