September 17, 1960

Antibiotics in Tests for Toxicity of Snake Venom

Author Affiliations

Urbana, Ill.

Associate Professor of Health Education (Dr. Boys), Professor of Veterinary Pathology (Dr. Beamer), and Professor of Zoology (Dr. Smith), University of Illinois.

JAMA. 1960;174(3):306-307. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.63030030014022b

Preliminary experiments on the effects of snake venom on rabbits have revealed that the injection of solutions of venoms as ordinarily supplied, although under aseptic conditions, may be followed by indications not only of venom poisoning but also of bacterial action. Experimental and clinical observations on cases of snake envenomization wherein antibiotics have not been employed (to wit, in animal experiments to eliminate any bacteria contaminating the venom, and in naturally envenomated animals or humans to prevent or minimize secondary tissue bacterial contamination), cannot be accepted as reliable indicators of venom action since bacterial action may be an important factor in the symptomatology and results of the envenomization.

The Problem  The scientific literature of recent years has included several publications which appear to substantiate the above conclusion. In 1956, Parrish and others1 reviewed the literature pertaining to the bacterial contaminants in the mouths and the venom glands of venomous

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