The risk of accidental envenomation to the handler of venomous snakes during drug administration limits the ability to treat these animals. One commercially available osmotic pump is a miniature self-contained cylindrical implant that operates on the basis of an osmotic pressure difference between the extracellular fluid and the osmotic agent in the pump. Osmotic pumps loaded with amikacin were surgically placed into the coelomic cavity of five adult corn snakes (Elaphe guttata guttata) (group A). Four snakes (group B) received an intramuscular injection of amikacin at 5 mg/kg followed by 2.5 mg/kg q 72 hr for a total of four injections. Plasma concentrations of amikacin were measured in both groups. Renal function was evaluated pre- and posttreatment via scintigraphy with 99mTc-mercaptoacetyltriglycine (99mTc-MAG3) and measurement of plasma uric acid concentrations. Mean (+/- SD) steady state amikacin concentration for group A was 6.9 +/- 1.7 microg/ml (predicted = 8.0 microg/ml), and the measured pump rate was 0.134 +/- 0.017 microl/hr (predicted = 0.130 microl/hr). Mean (+/- SD) peak and trough plasma amikacin concentrations for group B were 22.7 +/- 8.5 microg/ml and 14.3 +/- 7.0 microg/ml, respectively. While neither scintigraphy nor plasma uric acid concentrations indicated toxicity in either group, continuous administration of aminoglycosides may cause nephrotoxicity, and it is unknown whether this delivery method of amikacin would be efficacious in treating bacterial infections in snakes. In addition, due to migration of one pump into the trachea causing asphyxiation and death, these pumps may not be appropriate for intracoelomic placement in corn snakes. Nonetheless, the pumps delivered the drug at a predictable rate and were efficacious in achieving a constant plasma concentration of amikacin at the predicted level. Osmotic pumps may offer a safer alternative to periodic intramuscular injections for drug delivery in venomous or aggressive snakes.
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