What are unique characteristics of coral snake venom?

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
  • Author: Spencer Greene, MD, MS, FACEP, FACMT, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Coral snake venoms are complex mixtures that include phospholipase A2, multiple proteases, high–molecular-weight protein, and a variety of neurotoxins. Approximately 380 isoforms of phospholipase A2 have been identified in snake venoms, and their effects include neuromuscular paralysis, bleeding, myonecrosis, edema, widespread inflammation, and platelet aggregation. [11, 12] In coral snakes, the neuromuscular effects are most pronounced.

There are several other neurotoxins found in coral snake species. Most are alpha-toxins, which competitively antagonize postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors on the neuromuscular junction. Weakness and paralysis result, although these can be overcome by increasing local acetylcholine concentrations. Myotoxic and edematogenic effects have also been detected in several coral snake venoms, with particularly strong activity the Eastern coral snake Mfulvius. [13] Coral snake venom components can also activate the classic complement pathway and subsequently generate anaphylatoxins, which contribute to vasodilation and allow for greater distribution of other venom components. [14]

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