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Marine Envenomation

Marine Envenomation is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Marine envenomation refers to poisoning caused by sting or bite from a vertebrate or invertebrate marine species.


  • Sponges:
    • Contain sharp spicules with irritants that cause pruritic dermatitis
  • Coelenterates (Cnidaria jellyfish):
    • Contain stinging cells known as nematocysts on their tentacles
    • Fluid-filled cysts eject sharp, hollow thread-tube on contact.
    • Thread-tube penetrates skin and envenomates the victim.
    • Box jellyfish can kill within minutes
  • Starfish:
    • Sharp, rigid spines are coated with slimy venom.
  • Sea urchins:
    • Hollow, sharp spines filled with various toxins
  • Sea cucumbers:
    • Hollow tentacles secrete holothurin, a liquid toxin.
  • Cone shells:
    • Venom injected through dart-like, detachable tooth.
    • Active peptides interfere with neuromuscular transmission.
    • Presents with puncture wounds similar to wasp stings.
  • Stingrays:
    • Most common cause of human marine envenomations.
    • Tapered spines attached to tail inject venom into victim.
  • Scorpion fish:
    • Lionfish usually mild; stonefish can be life threatening.
    • Sharp spines along dorsum and pelvis of fish
    • Often stepped on inadvertently
    • Neurotoxic venom
  • Catfish:
    • Dorsal and pectoral spines contain venom glands.
  • Sea snakes:
    • Hollow fangs with associated venom glands
    • Highly neurotoxic venom blocks neuromuscular transmission.

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Marine Envenomation." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307011/all/Marine_Envenomation.
Marine Envenomation. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307011/all/Marine_Envenomation. Accessed April 26, 2019.
Marine Envenomation. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307011/all/Marine_Envenomation
Marine Envenomation [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 26]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307011/all/Marine_Envenomation.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Marine Envenomation ID - 307011 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307011/all/Marine_Envenomation PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -