Species within the viperid genus Macrovipera are some of the most dangerous snakes in the Eurasian region, injecting copious amounts of potent venom. Despite their medical importance, the pathophysiological actions of their venoms have been neglected. Particularly poorly known are the coagulotoxic effects and thus the underlying mechanisms of lethal coagulopathy. In order to fill this knowledge gap, we ascertained the effects of venom upon human plasma for Macrovipera lebetina cernovi ,M. l. lebetina, M. l. obtusa, M. l. turanica, and M. schweizeri using diverse coagulation analysing protocols. All five were extremely potent in their ability to promote clotting but varied in their relative activation of Factor X, being equipotent in this study to the venom of the better studied, and lethal, species Daboia russelii. The Insoserp European viper antivenom was shown to be highly effective against all the Macrovipera venoms, but performed poorly against the D. russelii venom. Reciprocally, while Daboia antivenoms performed well against D. russelii venom, they failed against Macrovipera venom. Thus despite the two genera sharing a venom phenotype (Factor X activation) driven by the same toxin type (P- IIId snake venom metalloproteases), the surface biochemistries of the toxins differed significantly enough to impede antivenom cross- neutralization. The differences in venom biochemistry were reflected in coagulation co-factor dependence. While both genera were absolutely dependent upon calcium for the activation of Factor X, dependence upon phospholipid varied. The Macrovipera venoms had low levels of dependence upon phospholipid while the Daboia venom was three times more dependent upon phospholipid for the activation of Factor X. This suggests that the sites on the molecular surface responsible for phospholipid dependence, are the same differential sites that prevent inter- genera antivenom cross- neutralization. Due to cold-chain requirements, antivenoms may not be stocked in rural settings where the need is at the greatest. Thus we tested the efficacy of enzyme inhibitor Prinomastat as a field-deployable treatment to stabilise patients while being transported to antivenom stocks, and showed that it was extremely effective in blocking the Factor X activating pathophysiological actions. Marimastat however was less effective. These results thus not only shed light on the coagulopathic mechanisms of Macrovipera venoms, but also provide data critical for evidence-based design of snakebite management strategies.
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