Category: Author: Infinity Dental Web
Things You Don’t Want to Get Bitten By…
Countless species of organisms produce saliva inside pockets in the mouth called glands. Saliva serves a variety of purposes for us humans, from aiding the process of pre-digestion to acting as a disinfectant of the mouth and throat. Common and harmless as saliva is to us, certain organisms generate saliva that is poisonous—meaning, should it come into contact with a person or animal, serious infection and/or even death can take hold.
Normally, we associate venomous bites with snakes and spiders such as the Black Widow Spider or Rattlesnake. Up until recently, only two poisonous lizards were thought to exist: the Gila monster and the Mexican bearded lizard, both of which inhabit the southern US and Mexico. Just a few years ago, however, researchers discovered that the Komodo dragon has more venomous saliva in its mouth than previously thought—which, before, was none at all.
The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard. They can be up to 10 feet in length and weigh up to 300 pounds. What is unusual about the Komodo dragon is that its bite isn’t particularly strong and wouldn’t necessarily kill, according to a team of researchers at University of Melbourne. What actually harms and kills the prey is their saliva, which contains some of the most virulent strains of bacteria found in any creature. The dragon’s serrated teeth are laden with bacteria that are produced by complex venom glands, the Melbourne team discovered after examining the glands of a terminally ill dragon and finding venom similar to that of a Gila monster. Once bitten, the venom causes a sudden drop in the blood pressure of the animal so it goes into shock. The blood is unable to coagulate, causing the animal to bleed to death. An animal bitten by a Komodo dragon has no chance of survival; it’s a wonder to researchers how the Komodo manages to stay alive despite the amount of harmful bacteria residing in its own mouth.
What most people don’t know is that felines—your very own household pet—also may be a carrier of poisonous saliva. Cat bites should be taken seriously to both humans and other cats; after all, 19% of about two million animal bites are inflicted by cats. The bites tend to become infected by the bacteria found in the cat’s saliva. Bacteria called Pasteurella, which normally resides in the nasal cavity, oral cavity, and tonsil region of cats, cause most infections. Since cat fangs can cause deep punctures when they bite, this bacteria can be deposited into joints depending on where they bite. Consequently, a deep cat bite should be treated by a doctor right away to ensure that an infection does not occur.
Most of us do not need to be concerned about the potentiality of being confronted by a Komodo dragon when heading out of the house to warm up the car in the morning. That is, unless you live on one of the few Indonesian Islands where they are inhabited. Cats on the other hand are a common household pet, one you have likely encountered many times in your life. If you are a cat-owner, it’s certainly wise to be cautious knowing your cat may be carrying around these bacteria, and possibly producing poisonous saliva.
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