Drug boosts snakebite survival time by half: study

Jun 26, 2011

Rubbing snakebites with an ointment that slows the functioning of lymph glands could boost survival times by 50 percent, according to a study released Sunday.

In experiments on humans and mice, researchers in Australia showed that a class of compounds called nitric oxide donors delays the entry of toxins from potentially deadly snakebites into the blood stream.

Nitric oxide (NO), a molecule involved in regulation of blood pressure and the control of , has been shown to in patients who suffer acute strokes.

The new finding is of more than academic interest: every year some 100,000 people worldwide die from snakebites, and another 400,000 must amputate limbs that have been injected with poison.

It has long been known that many snake venoms contain large molecules that transit the human body's before entering the .

Separately, scientists have also established that nitric oxide slows down a pumping mechanism within the lymphatic system, a part of the body's immune system that carries a clear fluid -- called lymph -- toward the heart.

Dirk van Helden, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, put these two facts together to suggest a possible treatment for snakebites.

"We hypothesised that a nitric oxide-releasing agent applied topically would slow lymphatic transit time and entry of the into the circulation, delaying onset of toxicity," he and his colleagues wrote in the study.

To test their theory, the researchers injected a venom-like substance into one foot of 15 volunteers, and measured the time it took for the substitute to reach lymph nodes in the groin.

The experiment was later repeated, except this time the drug-laced ointment was spread around the puncture within one minute of the injection.

Result: the transit time dropped from an average of 13 minutes to 54 minutes, four times slower.

Further experiments using real toxins in rats yielded roughly the same results.

Finally, the researchers compared the survival time in rats injected with venom that were treated with the ointment against those that were not, and found that the rats kept breathing 50 percent longer.

"These results point to a new method of snakebite first aid that may also be useful for bites to the torso or head," the researchers concluded.

Currently, the most common treatment is to immobilise the patient and restrict blood flow as much as possible until medical assistance is available.

Explore further: National Cancer Institute supports next-generation Austrian HPV vaccine

More information: A pharmacological approach to first aid treatment for snakebite, Nature Medicine (2011) doi:10.1038/nm.2382 . www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop… nt/full/nm.2382.html

Abstract
Snake venom toxins first transit the lymphatic system before entering the bloodstream. Ointment containing a nitric oxide donor, which impedes the intrinsic lymphatic pump, prolonged lymph transit time in rats and humans and also increased rat survival time after injection of venom. This pharmacological approach should give snakebite victims more time to obtain medical care and antivenom treatment.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Atmospheric chemistry hinges on better physics model

Oct 06, 2014

New theoretical physics models could help us better grasp the atmospheric chemistry of ozone depletion. Indeed, understanding photoabsorption of nitrous oxide (N2O) - a process which involves the transfer of the energy of ...

Research band at Karolinska tuck Dylan gems into papers

Sep 29, 2014

(Phys.org) —A 17-year old bet among scientists at the Karolinska Institute has been a wager that whoever wrote the most articles with Dylan quotes before they retired would get a free lunch. Results included ...

Team developing wearable tech for disease monitoring

Aug 06, 2014

A new wearable vapor sensor being developed at the University of Michigan could one day offer continuous disease monitoring for patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease.

Recommended for you

A new tool in drug overdose prevention

Oct 30, 2014

The Center for Disease Control reported earlier this month that the heroin overdose death rate across 28 states it surveyed doubled between 2010 and 2012. This sharp increase and the chilling statistics that say more than 11 ...

Nasal spray treats heroin overdose

Oct 28, 2014

"Every year, drug overdoses are responsible for roughly 1000 ambulance calls in Oslo," says Arne Skulberg, an anaesthesiologist, a PhD candidate at NTNU and the 2014 winner of Norway's Researcher Grand Prix ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
1 / 5 (2) Jun 26, 2011
How great that I won't have to suck the poison and spit it out anymore.
Argon
not rated yet Jun 27, 2011
The title is a bit confusing, other than that very nice article!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.