Snakes in a Storm!
A Herpetologist’s Struggle with Hemostasis
Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University
In this interrupted case study, students follow “Joseph Summers” as he attempts to do a late-night relocation of a snake exhibit as a response to an imminent hurricane. After a series of unfortunate events, Joseph is bitten by an unknown venomous snake. Based on his symptoms and other clues from the case, students must discover the likely culprit so that the correct antivenom can be administered to Joseph. Drawing upon their understanding of hemostasis, students will explore the mechanism of action of various venoms and learn about disseminated intravascular coagulation as it relates to exposure to snake venom. They will also be introduced to the true story of Karl P. Schmidt, who succumbed to a boomslang snake bite when he was working at the Field Museum of Natural History in 1957. The teaching notes include an optional homework assignment to prepare students with the necessary background knowledge. This case study is appropriate for use in a majors or non-majors anatomy and physiology, animal physiology, nursing, or intermediate-level biology course.
- Explain the mechanism of the blood coagulation cascade, starting at the point of factor X activation (if homework is used, students should also be able to diagram the cascade).
- Describe and know the function of specific components of the blood such as clotting factors, fibrinogen, fibrin, prothrombin, and thrombin.
- Become familiar with a unique physiological condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (also known as consumption coagulopathy) and understand how it may disrupt hemostasis.
- Practice data synthesis and interpretation skills by using patient data to generate hypotheses about which snake (venom) is responsible for the physiological changes noted in the case.
KeywordsSnakes; venom; hemostasis; boomslang; clotting; coagulation; blood; hemorrhage; cascade; Schmidt; herpetology; coagulopathy; fibrinogen; fibrin; prothrombin; thrombin;
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDirected, Discussion
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Physiology | Toxicology | Wildlife Management | Zoology |
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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.
- Diary of a Snakebite Death
In 1957 at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Dr. Karl P. Schmidt, famed snake expert and herpetologist, made a detailed scientific account of the effect of venom from a snake bite in the human body—his body. Running time: 7:35 min. Produced by Science Friday, 2015.
- Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation
This brief video on DIC explains the condition in which the body has both widespread clotting, leading to organ ischemia, with simultaneous depletion of clotting factors, leading to bleeding. Running time: 6:04 min. Produced by Osmosis, 2017.