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Researchers found an novel way to treat snakebite victims

Published May 10th, 2020 1:06PM EDT
Snake Bite Treatment
Image: FLPA/Shutterstock

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  • A new research study claims that administering an oral drug to snakebite victims can inhibit the venom from taking hold, thus giving victims more time to seek appropriate medical care.
  • Poisonous snakes can kill more than 100,000 people a year, a figure much larger than deaths resulting from the murder hornet everyone is buzzing about right now.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you might have seen some concern about murder hornets, otherwise known as Asian Giant Hornets, invading the United States. While murder hornets look like the stuff nightmares are made out of, the truth is that they only kill a handful of people every year and aren’t really a threat to humans. In truth, murder hornets — which can sometimes grow to be more than 2-inches long — are dangerous because of the threat they pose to local honeybee populations, not to people.

Interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, snakes pose a much more dangerous threat to humans. In fact, there tend to be more snake-related deaths, on average, in a single week than bee or hornet-related deaths over the course of an entire year. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), anywhere from 80,000 to 140,000 people die every year from snake bites. Historically, one of the inherent problems with getting that number lower is that snake bites often occur out in the wild and getting proper treatment often requires a clinical setting and the intravenous administration of antivenom. A new research study, however, may provide a new treatment option to help keep snake bite victims alive until proper treatment can be given.

According to new research from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, giving snake bite victims oral medication in the form of “dimercaprol (also called British anti-Lewisite) and its derivative 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid (DMPS)” was found to temporarily inhibit the efficacy of snakebite venom from vipers. Further, the drug was found to be even more potent when later combined with traditional antivenom medication.

The team’s paper suggests that DMPS could be repurposed as an oral medicine for treating snakebite victims soon after a bite, and before they travel to a healthcare facility. While antivenom may still be needed once the patient arrives at a clinical setting, early treatment with DMPS has the potential to save lives and limbs in the world’s poorest communities by removing treatment delays.

“The advantages of using a compound like DMPS is that it is already a licensed medicine that has been proven to be safe and affordable,” professor Nicholas Casewell said of the research. “That it can effectively neutralize saw-scaled viper venoms in models of envenoming highlights the promise of this drug as an early, pre-hospital, therapeutic intervention for life-threatening bites by snakes like the saw-scaled viper.”

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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