Nonvenomous snakebite in Massachusetts: prophylactic antibiotics are unnecessary

Ann Emerg Med. 1993 Feb;22(2):220-4. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)80207-0.


Study objective: To investigate wound infection in nonvenomous snakebite.

Design: Prospective clinical series.

Setting: Massachusetts Poison Control System.

Participants: Seventy-two consecutive children and adults with nonenvenomated snakebite wounds.

Interventions: Patients were examined and advised that there was no published clinical evidence that prophylactic antibiotics were beneficial for nonenvenomated snakebites. They were re-examined five to ten days after the bite.

Main results: Four patients used prophylactic antibiotics; 68 did not. There were no wound infections. Plain radiographs revealed a snake tooth fragment in the persistently tender wound of one patient bitten by his pet python.

Conclusion: Despite reports that pathogenic bacteria can be isolated from snakes' mouths, nonenvenomated snakebites in Massachusetts usually do not require prophylactic antibiotic therapy. Radiography is occasionally indicated for persistently tender wounds inflicted by large snakes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Snake Bites / complications
  • Snake Bites / drug therapy*
  • Wound Infection / etiology
  • Wound Infection / prevention & control*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents