Snake bites are not common in Australia, but cause severe effects and often occur in rural and regional parts of Australia. Antivenoms exist for the treatment of many of these bites and have been used for decades. However, there are still many questions about the effects of different snake venoms and toxins, the effectiveness of antivenom and other treatments, the safety of antivenom and the exact amount of antivenom that is required for treatment.
Current standard practice for any snake bite requires laboratory testing to determine if a patient has been envenomed. The administration of antivenom is then based on the presence of clinical effects of envenoming and abnormal laboratory investigations. Many of these envenoming effects are irreversible, so once they develop they are unlikely to be reversed by antivenom. This means that, antivenom needs to be given prior to the development of irreversible envenoming syndromes. The aim of this project will be to administer antivenom early – as soon as the patient presents to hospital without first waiting for laboratory tests or the development of clinical signs of envenoming (except non-specific symptoms), and/or retrieval to a major hospital for laboratory testing. The objective is to determine if the administration of early antivenom will prevent envenoming effects and therefore significant morbidity or death.