Does toad venom cause hyperkalemia (high serum potassium level)?

Updated: Jun 20, 2018
  • Author: Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Answer

Toad venom, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in folk medicine in southeastern Asia, contains cardiac glycosides whose structure and biochemical activity are similar to those of digitalis. These cause hyperkalemia by binding to the alpha subunit of Na+ -K+ -ATPase and thus inhibiting reuptake of potassium from the extracellular space. [35]

Toad venom is prepared from dried secretions, typically from the Asiatic toad (Bufo gargarizans). In addition being an ingredient in Chinese medications (eg, Chan Su, Lu-Shen Wan), toad venom has also turned up in purported aphrodisiacs. Digoxin Fab fragments have been used to treat toad venom poisoning. [36]


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