Variability in venom composition of European viper subspecies limits the cross-effectiveness of antivenoms

Giulia Zanetti, Elisa Duregotti, Carlo Alessandro Locatelli, Andrea Giampreti, Davide Lonati, Ornella Rossetto, Marco Pirazzini

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Medically relevant cases of snakebite in Europe are predominately caused by European vipers of the genus Vipera. Systemic envenoming by European vipers can cause severe pathology in humans and different clinical manifestations are associated with different members of this genus. The most representative vipers in Europe are V. aspis and V. berus and neurological symptoms have been reported in humans envenomed by the former but not by the latter species. In this study we determined the toxicological profile of V. aspis and V. berus venoms in vivo in mice and we tested the effectiveness of two antivenoms, commonly used as antidotes, in counteracting the specific activities of the two venoms. We found that V. aspis, but not V. berus, is neurotoxic and that this effect is due to the degeneration of peripheral nerve terminals at the NMJ and is not neutralized by the two tested antisera. Differently, V. berus causes a haemorrhagic effect, which is efficiently contrasted by the same antivenoms. These results indicate that the effectiveness of different antisera is strongly influenced by the variable composition of the venoms and reinforce the arguments supporting the use polyvalent antivenoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9818
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 29 2018


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