Vipers of Major clinical relevance in Europe: Taxonomy, venom composition, toxicology and clinical management of human bites.Toxicology. 2021 04 15; 453:152724.T
Snakebites in Europe are mostly due to bites from Viperidae species of the genus Vipera. This represents a neglected public health hazard with poorly defined incidence, morbidity and mortality. In Europe, fourteen species of "true vipers" (subfamily Viperinae) are present, eleven of which belong to the genus Vipera. Amongst these, the main medically relevant species due to their greater diffusion across Europe and the highest number of registered snakebites are six, namely: Vipera ammodytes, V. aspis, V. berus, V. latastei, V. seoanei and V. ursinii. Generally speaking, viper venom composition is characterised by many different toxin families, like phospholipases A2, snake venom serine proteases, snake venom metalloproteases, cysteine-rich secretory proteins, C-type lectins, disintegrins, haemorrhagic factors and coagulation inhibitors. A suspected snakebite is often associated with severe pain, erythema, oedema and, subsequently, the onset of an ecchymotic area around one or two visible fang marks. In the field, the affected limb should be immobilised and mildly compressed with a bandage, which can then be removed once the patient is being treated in hospital. The clinician should advise the patient to remain calm to reduce blood circulation and, therefore, decrease the spread of the toxins. In the case of pain, an analgesic therapy can be administered, the affected area can be treated with hydrogen peroxide or clean water. However, anti-inflammatory drugs and disinfection with alcohol or alcoholic substances should be avoided. For each patient, clinical chemistry and ECG are always a pre-requisite as well as the evaluation of the tetanus immunisation status and for which immunisation may be provided if needed. The treatment of any clinical complication, due to the envenomation, does not differ from treatments of emergency nature. Antivenom is recommended when signs of systemic envenomation exist or in case of advanced local or systemic progressive symptoms. Recommendations for future work concludes. The aim of this review is to support clinicians for the clinical management of viper envenomation, through taxonomic keys for main species identification, description of venom composition and mode of action of known toxins and provide a standardised clinical protocol and antivenom administration.