herald

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Trinity leading the search for antidote to deadly snake bites

Legend has it that St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland - and now we are leading the way in finding an antidote to their venomous bites.

A group of scientists led by researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the California Academy of Sciences have taken a promising step towards the development of a universal antidote for snake bites.

The easily-administered nasal spray offers hope for millions of victims, as it will allow them much-needed time to reach hospital, while reducing the cost of treatment.

The research may lead the way to providing a fast, accessible and easy way to administer treatment and increase survival rates in victims of venomous snake bites.

The scientific team, led by Dr Matthew Lewin from the California Academy and Dr Stephen P Samuel, a visiting research fellow in the School of Medicine at Trinity, examined the use of a nasally administered common hospital drug, neostigmine, on mice injected with high doses of Indian cobra venom.

Mice injected with otherwise fatal doses of venom outlived those that did not receive the treatment and in many cases survived after being treated with neostigmine, an anti-paralytic agent.

The results of the research were published in the Journal of Tropical Medicine.

toll

Almost five million people are bitten by snakes each year, with between 94,000 to 125,000 dying as a result.

Global fatalities are up to 30 times the toll of landmines, and in India alone snakes kill around a third as many people as Aids.

Many more who survive bites are left with severe and life-changing injuries.

Traditional treatments are administered in hospital via an injection.

However, the majority of snake bites occur in impoverished, rural populations with limited access to medical treatment.

It has been estimated that more than 75pc of Indian snake bite victims who die do so before they reach hospital, as there is no easy way to treat them at the scene.

For those who do manage to receive successful treatment, studies have shown that the costs of hospital treatment can bring economic ruin to the individual and their family.

fdillon@herald.ie

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