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Micrelaps vaillanti
General Details, Taxonomy and Biology, Venom, Clinical Effects, Treatment, First Aid , Antivenoms
Family: Lamprophiidae
Subfamily: Aparallactinae
Genus: Micrelaps
Species: vaillanti
Common Names
Desert Black-headed Snake , Somali Two-headed Snake , Boettger's Two-headed Snake ( former M. boettgeri )
Sub-Saharan Africa
Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia
Taxonomy and Biology
Adult Length: 0.25 m
General Shape
Very small in length, moderately slender bodied snake with a very short tail which narrows abruptly to a blunt tip. Can grow to a maximum of about 0.49 metres. Head is indistinct or barely distinct from neck. Eyes are very small in size with round ( or slightly vertically subelliptical ) pupils. Dorsal scales are smooth without apical pits. Ventrals are rounded. Dorsal scale count 15 - 15 - 15.
Semi-arid terrain with loose soil structures.
Nocturnal, fossorial and sluggish snake.
Feeds mainly on insects and small snakes.
Species Map
Small (Approx 20k) version
General: Venom Neurotoxins
Probably not present
General: Venom Myotoxins
Probably not present
General: Venom Procoagulants
Probably not present
General: Venom Anticoagulants
Probably not present
General: Venom Haemorrhagins
Probably not present
General: Venom Nephrotoxins
Probably not present
General: Venom Cardiotoxins
General: Venom Necrotoxins
General: Venom Other
Clinical Effects
General: Dangerousness
Unknown, but unlikely to cause significant envenoming, most unlikely to be dangerous.
General: Rate of Envenoming: Unknown but likely to be low
General: Untreated Lethality Rate: Unlikely to prove lethal
General: Local Effects
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but most likely to cause either no effects or possibly minor local pain & swelling only
General: Local Necrosis
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but local necrosis is unlikely to occur
General: General Systemic Effects
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but most likely no significant systemic effects will occur
General: Neurotoxic Paralysis
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but unlikely to occur
General: Myotoxicity
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but unlikely to occur
General: Coagulopathy & Haemorrhages
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but unlikely to occur
General: Renal Damage
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but unlikely to occur
General: Cardiotoxicity
Insufficient clinical reports to know, but unlikely to occur
General: Other
Insufficient clinical reports to know
First Aid
Description: First aid for bites by non-front-fanged colubroid snakes likely to cause either no effects or only mild local effects.
1. After ensuring the patient and onlookers have moved out of range of further strikes by the snake, the bitten person should be reassured and persuaded to lie down and remain still. Many will be terrified, fearing sudden death and, in this mood, they may behave irrationally or even hysterically. The basis for reassurance is the fact that many venomous bites do not result in envenoming, the relatively slow progression to severe envenoming (hours following elapid bites, days following viper bites) and the effectiveness of modern medical treatment.
2. The bite wound should not be tampered with in any way. Wiping it once with a damp cloth to remove surface venom is unlikely to do much harm (or good) but the wound must not be massaged.
3. All rings or other jewellery on the bitten limb, especially on fingers, should be removed, as they may act as tourniquets if oedema develops.
4. The bitten limb should be immobilised as effectively as possible using an extemporised splint or sling.
5. If there is any impairment of vital functions, such as problems with respiration, airway, circulation, heart function, these must be supported as a priority. In particular, for bites causing flaccid paralysis, including respiratory paralysis, both airway and respiration may be impaired, requiring urgent and prolonged treatment, which may include the mouth to mask (mouth to mouth) technique of expired air transfer. Seek urgent medical attention.
6. Do not use Tourniquets, cut, suck or scarify the wound or apply chemicals or electric shock.
7. Avoid peroral intake, absolutely no alcohol. No sedatives outside hospital. If there will be considerable delay before reaching medical aid, measured in several hours to days, then give clear fluids by mouth to prevent dehydration.
8. If the offending snake has been killed it should be brought with the patient for identification (only relevant in areas where there are more than one naturally occurring venomous snake species), but be careful to avoid touching the head, as even a dead snake can envenom. No attempt should be made to pursue the snake into the undergrowth as this will risk further bites.
9. The snakebite victim should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible to the nearest place where they can be seen by a medically-trained person (health station, dispensary, clinic or hospital). The bitten limb must not be exercised as muscular contraction will promote systemic absorption of venom. If no motor vehicle or boat is available, the patient can be carried on a stretcher or hurdle, on the pillion or crossbar of a bicycle or on someone's back.
10. Most traditional, and many of the more recently fashionable, first aid measures are useless and potentially dangerous. These include local cauterization, incision, excision, amputation, suction by mouth, vacuum pump or syringe, combined incision and suction ("venom-ex" apparatus), injection or instillation of compounds such as potassium permanganate, phenol (carbolic soap) and trypsin, application of electric shocks or ice (cryotherapy), use of traditional herbal, folk and other remedies including the ingestion of emetic plant products and parts of the snake, multiple incisions, tattooing and so on.
Treatment Summary
These small atractaspid burrowing snakes are not likely to be encountered or bite, nor is envenoming likely should a bite occur. As a consequence, in the unlikely event of a bite, extensive investigations and prolonged observation would rarely be necessary. The bite should be cleaned, tetanus immunisation secured, the patient observed for a period of a few hours only and if well, discharged, with a caution about the possibility of secondary infection developing later, though this is a theoretical risk only at this time.
Key Diagnostic Features
Most likely minor or trivial effects only, possibly minor local pain or swelling, systemic effects not likely.
General Approach to Management
Most cases will be minor, not requiring admission, with discharge possible after several hours uneventful observation. Nevertheless, it would be prudent to examine periodically for evidence of systemic envenoming.
Antivenom Therapy
No antivenom available
No Antivenoms
No images
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