Snake study released

By M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News Staff
Publication Date: 
Tue, 2001-01-02 01:07

RIYADH, 1 January — Over 51 species of snakes including several of the world's most lethal snakes from different zoological families have been found in Saudi Arabia. Nine of these are species of sea snakes present in the Arabian Gulf with myotoxic venom, which can easily kill animals and human beings.

Venomous species include the Arabian Cobra, found in the southern mountains with a maximum length of 2.5 meters and Innes' Cobra distributed throughout the dry desert land. This tends to be docile and reports of bites are rare, according to a study published in the King Saud University (KSU) journal.

The study said that Saudi Arabia hosted four genera and six species of the viperidae family besides the Horned Sand Viper, the most common venomous snake found here. The Horned Sand Viper can attain a length of 75 cm and its color matches the sand of the region. The Carpet Viper, another snake of the viperidae family, is reddish brown with white patterns found mainly in agricultural areas of the Kingdom.

Bitis arietans, fat snakes with long fangs attaining 1.5 meters in length, are found in the mountainous areas like Taif. The Little Black Snake, zoologically known as Alractaspic microlepiodta, has also been discovered there, said the study.

The study explains the method of treatment for the patients saying that within the first 30 minutes of the bite, it is possible to delay absorption of venom by applying a wide elasticized bandage over the bite and winding it on the limb. Later, this bandage should be slowly released at a well-equipped medical facility otherwise a massive dose of venom might be released all at once.

A considerable amount of venom, the study said, might be removed by incision and suction, warning that this could aggravate bleeding, introduce infection and delay recovery. Using antivenom reduces risk of mortality. However, available antivenoms are derived from horses and tend to cause allergic reactions.

The study said that several non-equine antivenoms are currently being tested. Their efficacy, even against an individual species, is often limited in effect.

Antivenom should be administered even if the patient is not seen until days after bite, since deaths from cerebral haemorrhage have been reported up to 12 days after the introduction of venom. Early administration of antivenom might limit necrosis and delayed cardiovascular collapse in the case of Bitis arietans bites. However, no antivenom is known to be effective against Walter innesia aegyptia.

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