Why Are The Effects Of Snake Venom So Varied?
Snake venom consists of proteins, enzymes, substances with a cytotoxic (poisonous to living cells) effect, neurotoxins (which damage nerve cells), and anti-coagulants. Four distinct types of venom act on the body differently.
- Proteolytic venoms disrupt tissue integrity.
- Hemotoxic venoms affect cardiac tissue, blood vessels, and blood cells.
- Neurotoxic venoms damage the central and peripheral nervous systems, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis.
- Cytotoxic venoms damage cells at the bite site.
Each snake has different amounts of different toxins in its venom. For example, the Mojave rattlesnake’s venom consists primarily of a neurotoxin, while the western diamondback’s venom contains digestive enzymes and anti-coagulants to immobilize its prey. The following components are common in venomous snakes.
- Phosphodiesterases cause cardiac pathology and hypotension (loss of blood pressure).
- Phospholipase A2 causes hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and thrombocytopenia (loss of blood platelets that help the blood clot).
- Cholinesterase inhibitors make prey animals lose muscle control.
- Hyaluronidase increases tissue permeability and enhances the rate of venom absorption.
- Amino acid oxidases and proteases predigest prey.