Arizona researcher discovers breakthrough that could buy time for snakebite victims

A researcher at the University of Arizona has discovered a breakthrough that could lead to better treatment after a venomous snakebite.

Dr. Vance G. Nielsen, with U of A's Department of Anesthesiology, published a study showing results with a treatment that could delay the anti-clotting effects of a snakebite.

After a snakebite, the venom can cause problems with blood clotting, either by preventing clotting, leading to internal bleeding, or triggering clotting too quickly, possibly leading to heart attack or stroke.

Time is of the essence in snakebite situations. Nielsen's research shows a treatment of carbon monoxide and iron administered by something like an EpiPen could delay the affects of the venom.

Imagine being on a hike in the Arizona desert, accidentally encountering a Western Diamondback rattlesnake, then being able to stop the effects of the venom while help arrives.

The treatment mixture tested by Nielsen works for snakebites of more than three dozen snakes found throughout the world.

"The excitement is that we have proven that carbon monoxide has the ability to directly inhibit essentially all hemotoxic venom enzymes in the test tube and that it blocks the effects of the Western Diamondback rattlesnake's venom in animals," Nielsen said in a news release by U of A. "The effects on coagulation of some of the deadliest snake venoms in the world — South American, North American and even African, such the cobra's — can be delayed by a treatment that could be delivered with a device much like an EpiPen used for allergic reactions." 

The breakthrough is important to developing the therapy, but Nielsen is looking for commercial backing to get a product to consumers. Learn more here.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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