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  Overview of Cardiotoxins

Overview of Cardiotoxins

Cardiotoxins are a confusing group of toxins, because the name is often used for certain snake venom components, even though in humans, they generally do not affect the heart significantly. These snake venom toxins are based on phospholipases, as are many other venom components. They cause cellular injury and are most closely related to components causing local tissue or muscle injury.

There are some true cardiotoxins that directly affect the heart, causing arrhythmias.

There are also a number of toxins that cause secondary cardiac problems. Most prominent of these are the myotoxins, which cause muscle breakdown. As the muscle cells disolve, they release their contents, including potassium. This enters the bloodstream, where, if in high enough amounts, it can severely affect the heart. It can cause cardiac arrhythmias or cardiac arrest.

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