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The first reported snakebite by an African snake-eater, Polemon spp. (Atractaspididae, Aparallactinae); Local envenoming by Reinhardt's snake-eater, Polemon acanthias (Reinhardt, 1860). Toxicon XX, xxx. A 51-yr-old male herpetologist was bitten on the left index finger by a captive male Polemon acanthias while manually removing fragments of incompletely shed skin from the specimen. The snake sustained its bite for approximately 2 mins, advancing its jaws several times. The victim rapidly developed moderate pain, erythema, progressive edema that ultimately extended to the left wrist; a blister later developed in the wound site, as well as joint stiffness in the bitten and adjacent two fingers that limited flexion and extension. These effects regressed during the week following the bite, but recurred thereafter and were similar to the effects that developed immediately post-envenoming. There were no systemic signs or symptoms. The victim sought medical advice and was treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics, antihistamines and wound care; no laboratory investigations were conducted. He improved during the subsequent month with complete resolution in 5 and one-half weeks. This is the first documented bite by a Polemon spp. and the victim's clinical course suggests the development of local effects from venom components. The phylogenetic relationship of Polemon spp. with the burrowing asps (Atractaspis spp.) and the similarity of some of the features of this local envenoming by P. acanthias with mild/moderate envenoming by some Atractaspis spp., suggests that none of these snakes should be handled; they should be considered capable of inflicting potentially serious envenoming.

Original publication





Toxicon : official journal of the International Society on Toxinology

Publication Date





92 - 95


Department of Toxinology, Women's and Children's Hospital, North Adelaide, South Australia, 5006, Australia. Electronic address:


Animals, Elapidae, Snake Bites, Elapid Venoms, Antivenins, Phylogeny, Male