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article imageGraphic photo: Snake bite causes girl’s leg to shrivel, blacken

By JohnThomas Didymus     Oct 28, 2014 in Internet
Caracas - The photo below shows a 13-year-old Venezuelan girl whose leg became severely withered and blackened after she was bitten by a venomous snake. The extreme shriveling and blackening of her leg was due to severe necrosis from the effect of the snake venom.
Necrosis is a medical term referring to the premature death of the cells of an organ or body tissues. It is usually caused by conditions involving an infection, introduction of toxic products into the body, physical injury, trauma or any condition that blocks or lowers blood supply to affected tissues, such as in cases of frost bite where gangrenous transformation of the tissues of body extremities follow exposure to the freezing effect of very low temperatures.
In this girl's case necrosis was due to the toxic effect of the snake venom which caused the death of the cells of her leg.
According to the Instagram user "Juventudmedica," who posted the photo showing the withered leg online, the girl's condition deteriorated to the extent of extreme rotting and withering because her caregivers delayed bringing her to the hospital for proper medical attention. She was treated at home for a month with indigenous remedies before she was brought to a hospital in Caracas, Venezuela.
Young girl s shriveled and blackened leg due to snake bite  probably pit viper
Young girl's shriveled and blackened leg due to snake bite, probably pit viper
A general practitioner, Arun Ghosh, told the Daily Mail that judging from the signs of muscle wasting, as indicated in the extreme skinniness of the unaffected leg, a complication called rhabdomyolysis had probably set in by the time the girl was brought to the hospital.
Rhabdomyolysis involves the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissues with the main muscle protein called myoglobin being released into the bloodstream. The products of breakdown of myoglobin can damage kidney cells and even cause death through failure of the kidneys.
The girl also suffered an injury to her elbow at the time she was bitten by the snake and a laceration to an artery in her leg which led to a condition known as "compartment syndrome."
This is a serious and painful condition which occurs when pressure builds up within muscles and related tissues causing a decrease in blood flow and thus poor nourishment of nerve and muscle cells. The buildup of pressure typically results from swelling or bleeding within muscle, nerve and blood vessel compartments held together by a tough membrane called the fascia.
Ghosh told the Daily Mail that the girl will need to have her shriveled leg amputated. He also said that she could still die even after amputation due to the effects of the snake venom in her system.
The doctor explained that the indigenous treatment she received could have included antibiotics without antivenom needed to counter the effect of the snake venom.
He said, "The whole lower leg is black, it’s spreading up. Looking at the rest of her body she’s showing signs of muscle wastage from the poison. Her other leg is thin. It's likely she will still die."
The poor girl was likely bitten by a pit viper. Dangerous South and Central American pit vipers include the "bushmaster," Lachesis muta, a large and aggressive snake. But it is not commonly found close to human habitation, preferring dense and remote jungle environment.
Lachesis muta
Lachesis muta
Wikimedia Commons/Christopher Murray
Her injury was most likely caused by a bothrops viper, a genus including several species such as the Fer-de-Lance or Labarria, known scientifically as Bothrops atrox, and the Eyelash Pit Viper or Horned Palm Viper, known scientifically as Bothrops schlegeli.
Bothrops vipers are commonly found in Venezuela and are responsible for most cases of snake bite injury and deaths because, unlike the bushmaster, they often live near humans.
Bothrops atrox
Bothrops atrox
Wikimedia Commons/Danleo
The girl’s injury is typical of the effects of a bothrops viper bite. They have a reputation for undue aggression and lightning fast strike over a short range of a few inches. The vemom is haemotoxic, causing extensive tissue necrosis and internal hemorrhage.
Bothrops atrox
Bothrops atrox
Wikimedia Commons/ Feroze Omardeen
Other dangerous South and Central American snakes include coral snakes often identified by their red, black and yellow band markings. The bite releases neurotoxic venom that can cause respiratory paralysis, suffocation and death in a matter of minutes. This explains why they are widely known in Mexico as "20 minutes" snakes due to the belief that it takes only 20 minutes for the victim to suffocate to death after being bitten.
Fortunately they are not aggressive animals and usually bite only when stepped upon accidentally.
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