Chemists at the University of California, Irvine have developed a way to neutralize deadly snake venom more cheaply and effectively than with traditional anti-venom – an innovation that could spare millions of people the loss of life or limbs each year.
In the U.S., human snakebite deaths are rare – about five a year – but the treatment could prove useful for dog owners, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts brushing up against nature at ankle level. Worldwide, an estimated 4.5 million people are bitten annually, 2.7 million suffer crippling injuries and more than 100,000 die, most of them farmworkers and children in poor, rural parts of India and sub-Saharan Africa with little healthcare.
The existing treatment requires slow intravenous infusion at a hospital and costs up to $100,000. And the antidote only halts the damage inflicted by a small number of species.
“Current anti-venom is very specific to certain snake types. Ours seems to show broad-spectrum ability to stop cell destruction across species on many continents, and that is quite a big deal,” said doctoral student Jeffrey O’Brien, lead author of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Zeroing in on protein families common to many serpents, the UCI researchers demonstrated that they could halt the worst effects of cobras and kraits in Asia and Africa, as well as pit vipers in North America. The team synthesized a polymer nanogel material that binds to several key protein toxins, keeping them from bursting cell membranes and causing widespread destruction. O’Brien knew he was onto something when the human serum in his test tubes stayed clear, rather than turning scarlet from venom’s typical deadly rupture of red blood cells.
Chemistry professor Ken Shea, senior author of the paper, explained that the venom – a “complex toxic cocktail” evolved over millennia to stay ahead of prey’s own adaptive strategies – is absorbed onto the surface of nanoparticles in the new material and is permanently sequestered there, “diverted from doing harm.”
Thanks to the use of readily available, nonpoisonous components, the “nanodote” has a long shelf life and costs far less. The existing antidote is made by injecting horses with venom, waiting weeks for the animals to develop antibodies, then extracting their blood and shipping it from Mexico or Australia to places that can afford it. The process is not allowed in the U.S. Major suppliers have discontinued shipments to many markets.
In contrast, “our treatment costs pennies on the dollar and, unlike the current one, requires no refrigeration,” O’Brien said. “It feels pretty great to think this could save lives.”
Since publishing their findings, the researchers have discovered that scorpion and spider bite infections may also be slowed or stopped via their invention. They have patents pending and are seeking public and private funding to move forward with clinical trials and product development. Additionally, Shea’s group pioneered a synthetic antidote for bee melittin – the ingredient in stings that can kill people who have an allergic reaction – using similar methods.
“The goal is not to save mice from venom and bee stings,” Shea said, “but to demonstrate a paradigm shift in thinking about solutions to these types of problems. We have more work to do, and this is why we’re seeking a fairly significant infusion of resources.”
The U.S. Department of Defense’s research arm financed the first phase of the laboratory work. “The military has platoons in the tropics and sub-Saharan Africa, and there are a variety of toxic snakes where they’re traipsing around,” Shea said. “If soldiers are bitten, they don’t have a hospital nearby; they’ve got a medic with a backpack. They need something they can use in the field to at least delay the spread of the venom.”
Receive an email update when we add a new SNAKE VENOM article.
The Latest on: Snake venom
via Google News
The Latest on: Snake venom
- Paucity Of Anti-snake Venom Hits Nigeria on February 17, 2019 at 6:10 pm
As the peak period of snakebite approaches, the nation is hit with paucity of Anti-Snake Venom (ASV), according to Dr. Nandul Durfa, Managing Director, Echitab Study Ltd Guarantee. Durfa, whose ... […]
- Paucity of anti-snake venom hits Nigeria at peak period of snakebite on February 17, 2019 at 8:49 am
As the peak period of snakebite approaches, Nigeria is hit with the paucity of Anti-Snake Venom (ASV), according to Nandul Durfa, Managing Director, Echitab Study Ltd Guarantee. Mr Durfa, whose outfit ... […]
- Scarcity of anti-snake venom hits Nigeria at peak period of snakebite on February 17, 2019 at 5:51 am
As the peak period of snakebite approaches, the nation is hit with the paucity of Anti-Snake Venom (ASV), according to Dr Nandul Durfa, Managing Director, Echitab Study Ltd Guarantee. Durfa, whose out... […]
- Donald Trump hones his killer mentality with snake venom on February 12, 2019 at 10:18 am
Books on Donald Trump are by authors who either like him or can’t stand him. Finally there’s one – Team of Vipers, by his former special assistant Cliff Sims – which falls into neither camp. A former ... […]
- Taking the bite out of snake venom on February 7, 2019 at 2:12 am
According to the World Health Organization, about 100,000 people die from venomous snakebites every year. Many of these fatalities occur in rural areas of developing countries that lack access to anti... […]
- B.C. police say girl, 2, died by snake venom; man arrested, charged on January 21, 2019 at 12:55 pm
VANCOUVER — A 51-year-old man has been arrested in the 2014 death of a two-year-old girl and North Vancouver Mounties say it’s believe she was poisoned by snake venom. Police say Henry Thomas had the ... […]
- Grandma mourns little B.C. girl killed with snake venom on January 21, 2019 at 12:29 pm
The grandmother of a toddler poisoned by snake venom is relieved charges have finally been laid in the disturbing case, but still wants to know why her family waited nearly five years for answers in l... […]
via Bing News