New remedy for snakebite could save 100,000 lives a year

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New remedy for snakebite could save 100,000 lives a year
New remedy for snakebite could save 100,000 lives a year

Researchers reported the creation of a cheap and easy-to-use remedy for snake bites. It can save hundreds of thousands of people a year from death or disability.

The achievement is described in a research paper published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry by a group led by Brian Lohse of the University of Copenhagen.

Sizzling death

Is there an antidote that saves from being bitten by a cobra or other deadly poisonous snake? Yes, but … This "but" annually costs hundreds of thousands of people life or health.

Antivenoms for snake venom are made as follows. Large animals (usually horses) are specially targeted by snake bites. Their immunity produces antibodies to the poison. These antibodies are then isolated and purified. They serve as a remedy against the deadly toxin.

Making antidotes in this way is a long, complicated and very expensive process. As a result, the price of the finished drug can reach two thousand dollars per dose. Meanwhile, most often the inhabitants of poor countries encounter poisonous snakes, where the worker can receive a dollar or two a day for his labor.

In addition, the antidote must be administered intravenously, which requires at least minimal medical training. Meanwhile, in these countries, the nearest medical aid post may be hundreds of kilometers from the scene. At the same time, for most residents of these states, a personal car is an unattainable dream, and the roads in rural areas are such that it is better to get there by all-terrain vehicle.

Finally, traditional antidotes are highly specialized. Remedy for the venom of one type of snake will not help in any way with the bite of a reptile of another species.

All these shortcomings of modern tools lead to a very sad picture. The World Health Organization estimates that between 81,000 and 138,000 people die each year from poisonous snake bites. Three times as many people become disabled (a meeting with a formidable reptile can result in paralysis or, for example, amputation of the limb affected by the bite).

And people are killed not only by snakes, but also by cheap substitutes for antidotes, which the victims are trying to use for lack of better. The introduction of such a low-quality drug can easily cause a fatal anaphylactic shock in a patient.

The new drug blocks a neurotoxin present in the venom of cobra and other snakes.

Salvation in your pocket

A new scientific work could be the beginning of a radical change in this depressing situation.

"We are working on an alternative type of antidote that is much cheaper than the traditional antibody-based antidote," explains Lohse.

Lohse and his co-authors discovered a peptide that can be made quickly and cheaply in any chemical laboratory. The target of the new peptide is a protein called α-cobratoxin. This toxin is the "active substance" of the venom of approximately 75% of all venomous snakes.

In vitro ("in vitro") tests have shown that the new peptide binds α-cobratoxin molecules. The authors speculate that the timely introduction of a new drug at the site of the bite will prevent the poison from entering the bloodstream.

In this case, the drug should not be administered intravenously, but subcutaneously or intramuscularly. And for this, an easy-to-use automatic device, such as those used to administer insulin in diabetes, is sufficient. Therefore, the user does not need any special medical training.All he needs is to have a life-saving box on hand.

Researchers are now investigating whether the new drug will need to be refrigerated or whether it can safely withstand the tropical heat. The first results are encouraging, and if they are confirmed, the tool will become even more convenient to use.

However, in vitro research is only the first stage. Large-scale animal tests are ahead. If successful, it will be the turn of experimental use to help people bitten by snakes. And only after the completion of all checks, the drug can be approved for mass use.

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