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Snakebites in Africa and Europe: a military perspective and update for contemporary operations
  1. Daniel Wilkins1,
  2. D S Burns2,3,
  3. D Wilson3,4,
  4. D A Warrell5 and
  5. L E M Lamb3,6
  1. 1 Royal Army Medical Corps, 3 Medical Regiment, Preston, UK
  2. 2 Department of Infection and Tropical Medicine, Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Academic Department of Military Medicine, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4 Respiratory Medicine, University Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  5. 5 Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  6. 6 Department of Infectious Diseases, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to L E M Lamb, Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunity, Imperial College London, London W12 0NN, UK; DrLucyLamb{at}


Snakebite envenoming is rare among military patients, with few cases reported in recent years. Increasingly, however, military operations are taking place in remote parts of Africa, which are inhabited by numerous species of venomous snake, and in Europe, where dangerous species exist but are less common. Bites from a venomous snake may prove fatal, and therefore military medics must be adequately prepared to manage them. This paper reviews the most medically significant species of venomous snake present in Africa and Europe, before suggesting an evidence-based approach to snakebite prevention and management, including possible changes to the UK’s Clinical Guidelines for Operations.

  • tropical medicine
  • toxicology

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.