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Bungarus multicinctus, the Chinese krait, is a highly venomous elapid snake which causes considerable morbidity and mortality in southern China. B. multicinctus venom contains pre-synaptic PLA2 neurotoxins (i.e., β-bungarotoxins) and post-synaptic neurotoxins (i.e., α-bungarotoxins). We examined the in vitro neurotoxicity of B. multicinctus venom, and the efficacy of specific monovalent Chinese B. multicinctus antivenom, and Australian polyvalent elapid snake antivenom, against venom-induced neurotoxicity. B. multicinctus venom (1-10 μg/mL) abolished indirect twitches in the chick biventer cervicis nerve-muscle preparation as well as attenuating contractile responses to exogenous ACh and CCh, but not KCl. This indicates a post-synaptic neurotoxic action but myotoxicity was not evident. Given that post-synaptic α-neurotoxins have a more rapid onset than pre-synaptic neurotoxins, the activity of the latter in the whole venom will be masked. The prior addition of Chinese B. multicinctus antivenom (12 U/mL) or Australian polyvalent snake antivenom (15 U/mL), markedly attenuated the neurotoxic actions of B. multicinctus venom (3 μg/mL) and prevented the inhibition of contractile responses to ACh and CCh. The addition of B. multicinctus antivenom (60 U/mL), or Australian polyvalent snake antivenom (50 U/mL), at the t90 time point after the addition of B. multicinctus venom (3 μg/mL), did not restore the twitch height over 180 min. The earlier addition of B. multicinctus antivenom (60 U/mL), at the t20 or t50 time points, also failed to prevent the neurotoxic effects of the venom but did delay the time to abolish twitches based on a comparison of t90 values. Repeated washing of the preparation with physiological salt solution, commencing at the t20 time point, failed to reverse the neurotoxic effects of venom or delay the time to abolish twitches. This study showed that B. multicinctus venom displays marked in vitro neurotoxicity in a skeletal muscle preparation which is not reversed by antivenom. This does not appear to be related to antivenom efficacy, but due to the irreversible/pseudo-irreversible nature of the neurotoxins.


Qing Liang, Tam Minh Huynh, Yen Zhi Ng, Geoffrey K Isbister, Wayne C Hodgson. In Vitro Neurotoxicity of Chinese Krait (Bungarus multicinctus) Venom and Neutralization by Antivenoms. Toxins. 2021 Jan 11;13(1)

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PMID: 33440641

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