J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1998 May;285(2):490-5.
The mechanisms by which antivenom neutralizes the venom are still poorly understood. In the present work, we studied the effects of antivenom, constituted with either F(ab’)2 or Fab, on the processes of absorption and elimination of Vipera aspis venom in experimentally envenomed rabbits. We first concluded from this study that during the few hours after intramuscular injection, the venom rapidly disappeared from the site of injection but did not immediately reach the vascular system, suggesting that it is partly absorbed via the lymphatic circulation. Concerning the elimination process of the venom in the presence of antivenom, we observed that the elimination of F(ab’)2/venom complexes is slower than that of free venom in the absence of antivenom but faster than that of free F(ab’)2, suggesting that F(ab’)2/venom complexes are eliminated by phagocytosis. The Fab/venom complexes, on the other hand, are eliminated more slowly than free Fab. These complexes are not eliminated through the renal route in agreement with their high molecular weight. In addition, we observed that the treatment of envenomed rabbits with antivenom made of Fab, but not F(ab’)2, is responsible for an oliguria that could be responsible for clinical problems.