An Australian teenager was critically ill in hospital yesterday after being bitten by the world's most venomous snake, with detectives investigating how he came into contact with the desert reptile.
The 17-year-old walked into a hospital in the small town of Kurri Kurri, north of Sydney, on Wednesday afternoon with a bite to his left hand. According to local reports, his friend was carrying a plastic tub containing the snake responsible, later identified as the toxic inland taipan.
One drop of venom from the species is enough to kill 100 adult men. It typically lives in central Australia's arid deserts and is not normally seen on the coast.
Detectives were called in to investigate from where the snake had come, with speculation it could have been an illegal pet.
"The youth … is reported to be in a stable condition," police said, adding that the incident was not believed to be linked to a nearby zoo break-in at the weekend, when thieves made off with four pythons and two alligators.
Doctors said the teen's rapid treatment with anti-venom had been crucial to his survival, as inland taipan venom can kill a human in as little as 45 minutes.
"We had anti-venom in stock, we keep what's called polyvalent anti-venom, and that covers all of our snakes," toxicologist Geoff Isbister, who is treating the teen at Mater hospital in Newcastle, told ABC radio. "We had access to it immediately and he was treated very early."