Medical

Inexpensive antivenom could reportedly be used by "anyone, anywhere"

Inexpensive antivenom could re...
The production of traditional antivenom involves milking venom from captive snakes
The production of traditional antivenom involves milking venom from captive snakes
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The production of traditional antivenom involves milking venom from captive snakes
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The production of traditional antivenom involves milking venom from captive snakes

While snakebite antivenom is certainly a lifesaver, it's also expensive, time-consuming to produce, and must be administered by trained clinicians. A new low-cost type of antivenom, however, could conceivably be self-applied right away, on the spot.

Traditionally, antivenom is produced by first "milking" venom from the fangs of captive snakes, then injecting small amounts of that venom into animals such as horses. Those creatures respond by producing venom-neutralizing antibodies which are harvested from their blood, purified, then used in the antivenom.

This can be quite a lengthy process, plus the workers who extract the venom run a risk of getting bitten by the snakes. Additionally, the antivenom must be administered intravenously, typically in a hospital or clinic.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of snakebites occur in remotely located agricultural settings, in developing nations where healthcare facilities may be few and far between. What's more, specific antivenoms are usually required for bites from specific types of snakes.

Led by Assoc. Prof. Brian Lohse, scientists at the University of Copenhagen have instead turned to an easily produced peptide. This particular one binds with and neutralizes a lethal toxin which is the "active ingredient" in the venom of approximately 75 percent of all venomous snakes. In vitro lab tests have already shown it to be effective against quick-acting cobra venom, but it may also work on many other types.

"If it becomes a future product, it will fit in your pocket, and it can be used by anyone, anywhere," says Lohse. "The idea is that it can be injected using an automatic injection unit, precisely like the ones used by diabetes patients, that is, directly into the muscle or fold of the skin at the site of the bite."

The peptide-based antivenom is now being commercialized by U Copenhagen spinoff company Serpentides. A paper on the research – which also involves scientists from the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Münster – was recently published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Source: University of Copenhagen

5 comments
guzmanchinky
With the amount of time I spend hiking and in nature, it's only a matter of time before I get bit. I'll take one please.
Techrex
Well, There is a new Kickstarter company called "Bug Bite Thing", that is selling a small tube suction device, which, if you are stung by a bee or wasp, you put the soft suction cup on its end over the sting hole, and then you can suction nearly all of the bee or wasp venom out of the puncture wound. It got good reviews, because apparently doing this DOES reduce or eliminate the hurt out of the stings, and it also can suction out small splinters as well. Anyway, I sent them and related links a recommendation that they use the 'BugBite' unit to suck out the venom from snake bite punctures as well. Less venom in the wound, less suffering and number of deaths from the snake bite. Anyway, they should look into that option. Also, whenever there is a car crash, that activates the car's air bags, they have to replace the exploded air bag with new ones. OK, the car's air bags are made out of VERY thin stainless steel chain mail, I think that the Ford Motor company had to recall a lot of defective air bag units recently, so, perhaps we could recycle these trashed airbags, into sets of a kind of pants overalls, it could be secured loosely with Velcro strips, that people who have to work in poisonous snake infested areas, could put on. It would not be anything like a bulletproof vest, although it might prevent small enforced cutting events, but it should STOP the poisonous snakes fangs, from actually penetrating the skin of your legs and abdominal regions. That covers it.
Catweazle
Techrex, have you considered Kevlar, as used for stab vests?
JeffK
Techrex - Sucking the venom from a slit between the fang marks was an old method when I was born in 1951. I've even seen it used by my older brother on the victim of a prairie rattler bite in Montana. There were numerous suction devices on the market over the years. More recently it has been found to be less than reliable and, when done directly with the mouth it risks the health of the good samaritan if they happen to have an open sore in the mouth.

Catweazle - Kevlar leggings have been on the market for many years, and snake boots of heavy leather or, more recently, Kevlar, shafts reaching just below the knees are available from any outdoor clothing supplier. They are very effective in stopping bites to the lower legs. Unfortunately, some of the deadliest snakes in the world are small and tend to inhabit less developed, more tropical areas of the world. The bites from these critters are often on bare feet or unprotected hands, especially of children. There are also tree dwelling vipers that drop on their victims. These areas are also home to some of the largest and most aggressive venomous snakes such as green and black mambas, king cobras, and I'm sure many I've not heard of. I've read of a case from the Boer War in which an English officer was struck by a mamba while astride his horse; a Kevlar body suit would be required to block those bites. An inexpensive, widely available and personally applied medication could save many lives.
ljaques
Antivenin would be a much superior choice to a snakebite kit. I hope this works out and saves many lives.