Medical

Existing drug may help save snakebite victims

Existing drug may help save sn...
Echis carinatus, found mainly in India, is a member of the highly-venomous saw-scaled viper genus
Echis carinatus, found mainly in India, is a member of the highly-venomous saw-scaled viper genus
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Echis carinatus, found mainly in India, is a member of the highly-venomous saw-scaled viper genus
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Echis carinatus, found mainly in India, is a member of the highly-venomous saw-scaled viper genus

When someone gets bitten by a venomous snake, it's crucial to administer an antivenom as soon as possible. In order to keep the victim going in the meantime, though, it turns out that an existing medication may do the trick.

Because most commonly-used antivenoms are delivered intravenously in clinical settings, they can't be used out in the wilderness or in agricultural fields, where most snake bites occur. As a result, there's not a lot that people tending to victims can do, other than dressing the wound and getting the victim to a hospital quickly. And no, they are not advised to try sucking out the venom.

Led by Prof. Nicholas Casewell, scientists at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine therefore set out to see if there was some sort of medication that could be orally administered onsite, that would minimize the effects of the venom until a proper antivenom could take over.

They discovered that an existing heavy metal-poisoning treatment drug known as DMPS (2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid) significantly inhibited the in-vitro activity of venom enzymes from saw-scaled vipers. These are a group of snakes found in various regions of Africa and Asia, where it's believed that they may be responsible for more human deaths than all other snake species combined.

In lab mouse tests, it was determined that the medication works by binding to metal ions in the victim's body. This makes zinc ions unavailable to the venom, which relies on them in order to function.

"Because DMPS is an oral drug, it could be easily administered in the community by trained volunteers immediately after a snakebite," says Dr. Laura-Oana Albulescu, lead author of a paper on the study. "This would be a tremendous advantage in helping to reduce the onset of pathology, as snakebite victims can currently take many hours to reach a healthcare facility."

The paper was published this Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

3 comments
guzmanchinky
Very cool, I hope it becomes available for rattlesnakes in America.
moreover
In the US almost no one dies from venomous snake bikes which has 7-8,000 bites per year), and only one in 50 million people will die from snakebite (5-6 fatalities per year). My yard in Colorado opens to a rattlesnake ridden mesa and two neighbors have been bitten, one a 63 year old man and the other a then 4 year old girl. In both cases it took between 30 and 45 minutes to get to a hospital. Both are doing well now. That said, in 2017 31 year old triathlete Dan Hohs was killed four miles from here on a steep trail. There wasn't enough time to get him back to the road over difficult terrain. I've seen my first two rattlers run over last weekend.
Andy Macca
After a very long association with the Australian 'bush' as an adventure tour operator and a rural fire fighter, I know the dangers here, where the world's most dangerous and poisonous snakes slide freely about protected by questionable legislation. What an achievement to have an 'in-field' oral medicine to aid a bite victim. We have several deaths every year to venomous snake bites and an issue most Aussies are aware. Our Eastern Brown snake is possibly top of our fear list for its aggression but others here are more poisonous. Australia is a large land and distance to treatment can be a challenge. Well done to the Study Team.