Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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A Hot Bite

Smartphone-based device distinguishes venomous from non-venomous and dry snake bites

09 April 2021

A Hot Bite

The sight of a snake in the grass might make you sweat, but if it bites you’ll be hot in a different way. Venomous bites, which present the greatest threat, cause a localised increase in skin temperature around the swollen site. Identifying these early is key to starting treatments that mitigate the effects of the spreading poison. A new study has tested a smartphone-based tool that can instantly show relative skin temperature, revealing warm regions (red) around venomous bites (left, circled) and no clear heat spot around most dry bites (when a venomous snake mercifully elects not to inject its venom) or non-venomous ones (right). The device uses similar technology to that in night-vision cameras, detecting infrared radiation emanating from an object to show temperature. This quick test could help doctors stay cool under pressure and take fast action when needed.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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