Endocrine and Metabolic Manifestations of Snakebite Envenoming

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2020 Oct;103(4):1388-1396. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-0161.


Snakebite envenoming is a neglected, public health problem in tropical and subtropical regions. Local tissue necrosis, neurotoxic, and hemo-vasculotoxic effects are well-recognized features, whereas the endocrine and metabolic derangements are not as well known. In addition to contributing to morbidity, some of these manifestations can be potentially life-threatening if not recognized early. The most prominent endocrine manifestation is hypopituitarism (HP), which can manifest acutely or remain asymptomatic and present years later. Unexplained recurrent hypoglycemia and refractory hypotension are early clinical clues to suspect corticotroph axis involvement in acute settings. Chronic pituitary failure may present, like Sheehan's syndrome, several years after the bite. The occurrence of acute kidney injury, capillary leak syndrome, and disseminated intravascular coagulation are predictors of HP. Adrenal hemorrhages are documented in autopsy series; however, primary adrenal insufficiency is very rare and confounded by the presence of HP. Hyponatremia, hypokalemia or hyperkalemia, and dysglycemia can occur, but the mechanisms involved are only partially understood. Awareness, a high index of suspicion, correct interpretation of hormonal parameters, and timely treatment of these abnormalities can be lifesaving.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Insufficiency
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hyponatremia
  • Hypopituitarism* / etiology
  • Hypopituitarism* / pathology
  • Pituitary Gland / physiopathology
  • Snake Bites* / pathology
  • Snake Bites* / therapy
  • Snake Venoms / adverse effects*


  • Snake Venoms