Toxins And Venoms

Many arthropods of medical-veterinary importance produce toxins. Notable among these are scorpions, spiders, bees, wasps, ants, and velvet ants; certain beetles (e.g., blister beetles, some rove beetles, and darkling beetles);

and caterpillars, cocoons, and adults of various moths. Additionally, antigenic components in saliva released during blood-feeding by arthropods (e.g., certain fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers) cause local or systemic reactions in their hosts.

Toxins produced by arthropods represent a wide range of chemical substances from simple inorganic or organic compounds to complex alkaloids and heterocyclic compounds. The term venom refers to toxins that are injected into animal tissues via specialized structures such as stings, chelicerae (fangs), and spines. Venoms are often complex mixtures of toxins and various pharmacologically active compounds that facilitate the spread and effectiveness of the toxic components. They commonly include amines (e.g., histamine, catecholamines, serotonin), peptides, polypeptides (e.g., kinins), specific proteins, and enzymes (e.g., phospholipase, hyaluronidase, esterases) that vary significantly among different arthropod taxa. Depending on what types of cells or tissues they affect, toxins and venoms can be characterized, for example, as neurotoxins, cytotoxins, or hemotoxins. Frequently they cause such symptoms as pain, itching, swelling, redness, hemorrhaging, or blisters, the severity of which is largely dependent on the particular types and amounts of toxin involved.

Further information on arthropod toxins and venoms is provided by Beard (1960), Roth and Eisner (1962), Biicherl and Buckley (1971), Bettini (1978), Schmidt (1982), Tu (1984), and Meier and White (1995).

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