Heard K. O'Malley GF. Dart RC., Antivenom therapy in the Americas. Drugs. 58(1):5-15, 1999.
Envenomations are an important cause of injury in the Americas. While supportive care alone may result in an acceptable outcome, antivenom offers a specific therapy that can significantly reduce the injury and symptoms of the envenomation. Antivenoms are hyperimmune sera collected from animals immunized with venom. The antibodies contained in the serum bind and inactive venom components. This leads to cessation or reversal of the toxic effects of the venom. The serum is often processed to increase the level of antibodies directed against venom components and decrease the amount of inactive proteins that may cause allergic reactions. The processing may include precipitation of inactive proteins, chromatographic methods and cleavage of the immunoglobulins to form antibody fragments known as Fab or F(ab)2. In the Americas, antivenoms are produced to treat crotalid and Micrurus snake envenomations. Latrodectus and Loxosceles spider envenomations and Centruroides and Tityus scorpion envenomations. The indications, method of administration and incidence of adverse reactions differ greatly for each antivenom. The adverse effects encountered when using antivenoms are primarily allergic in nature. Anaphylaxis, which may be life threatening, is a major concern. Preparations to treat anaphylaxis must be made before initiating antivenom therapy. Serum sickness is also common with many of the antivenom preparations.