Coral Snake Envenomations in Central and South America

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Purpose of Review

Snakebites are increasingly recognized as a neglected tropical disease. The purposes of this review were to determine the significance of coral snakebites in Central and South America and how best to treat these envenomations. Questions that needed to be answered included:

What is the incidence of coral snake envenomation?

What are the features of coral snake envenomation?

What are the pharmacological and nonpharmacological ways to treat these bites?

Recent Findings

Multiple case reports and series describe the clinical features of coral snake envenomations, which account for fewer than 5% of all snakebites in Central and South America. Coral snake venom is a complex mixture of neurotoxins and other biologically active substances. There are multiple coral snake antivenoms available, but no single antivenom can be used for all species.


Coral snake envenomations are characterized by motor and sensory neurotoxicity. However, muscle damage, renal injury, hematologic toxicity, electrocardiographic abnormalities, and nonspecific signs and symptoms are also possible consequences. Supportive care and antivenom are the mainstays of therapy. Pressure immobilization may prevent systemic absorption, and neostigmine may protect against paralysis. Death is uncommon if treatment is initiated promptly. Nonspecific inhibitors of various venom components may serve as a bridge to definitive therapy.

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    Correspondence to Spencer Greene.

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    Greene, S. Coral Snake Envenomations in Central and South America. Curr Trop Med Rep (2020).

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    • Coral snake
    • Micrurus
    • Envenomation
    • Antivenom
    • Neostigmine
    • Snakebite