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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Scientists Closer to Universal Snakebite Antidote

It's a handy nasal spray.

by: Abbey Dufoe

image: Kevin Jones / Wikimedia
image: Kevin Jones / Wikimedia

One antivenin to rule them all?

Researchers at the California Academy of Sciences announced Thursday that they've made strides toward a universal snakebite antidote that can mitigate the effects of venom regardless of species.  In laboratory tests, a new anti-paralytic drug allowed a group of lab mice survive what would usually be a lethal dose of Indian cobra venom.  When nasally injected with the antidote just 10 minutes after introduction to the venom, 10 of 15 mice survived while the mice that did not receive any of the antidote died.  

The study's findings were published this week in the Journal of Tropical Medicine.

Human trials on the new drug have been limited thus far, but promising.  In April 2013, a female volunteer was injected with a toxin that mimiced snake venom and recovered after receiving the nasal antivenin.  Later that year, doctors in India used the compound to reverse partial facial paralysis on a female snakebite victim.

Currently, more than a dozen antivenins are commonly used to treat snakebites from various species.  Effective treatment requires specific knowledge of the snake on the part of both the doctor and the victim. 

Read more: California Academy of the Sciences

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