Hum Exp Toxicol. 2002 Mar;21(3):137-45.
Vipera aspis aspis (V.a.a.) is the most dangerous poisonous snake in South-Eastern France. The clinical symptoms observed after V.a.a. envenomations involve mostly local signs (pain, edema) associated in the more severe cases with systemic symptoms (gastro-intestinal and cardiovascular manifestations). Since 1992, several unusual cases of moderate and severe ‘neurotoxic’ envenomations by V.a.a. snakes have been reported in a very localized area in South-Eastern France. Most of the human patients mainly suffered neurological signs owing to cephalic muscle paralysis. Drowsiness and dyspnea were observed for the most severe cases. Envenomed animals suffered respiratory distress and paralysis. The local signs were never as severe as observed after envenomations by vipers in other French regions. Human patients with moderate or severe clinical features received two intravenous injections of Viperfav antivenom, the first dose inducing the decrease of the neurological signs and the second reducing significantly the edema. Neurotoxic components immunologically cross-reacting with toxins from V. ammodytes ammodytes venom from Eastern Europe were detected in the blood of all patients suffering neurological symptoms after a V.a.a. bite. The protective efficacy of various antivenoms was evaluated in mice. The existence of geographical variations in the composition of V.a.a. venom emphasizes on the use of polyvalent antivenom in the treatment of viper envenomations in France.