June 16, 2021

New early intervention therapy to treat snakebite

The snakebite kills 138,000 people a year worldwide, and some 400,000 victims are physically disabled or permanently disfigured. Now, a team of scientists has tested a novel form of treatment in laboratory and animal experiments.

The description of this early intervention therapy for those who cannot immediately receive an antivenom is published in the journal Science Traslational Medicine in an article led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (United Kingdom); On the Spanish side, the Valencia Institute of Biomedicine (CSIC) participates.

People most affected by snake attacks live in some of the poorest communities in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America and depend on agricultural activities for their income.

They are more exposed to a snakebite and the remote situation in these communities makes access to adequate health care a problem, the Liverpool school recalls in a note.

And it is that, victims of snakebites in rural settings often suffer long delays in receiving treatment, because the antivenom therapies that exist must be administered in clinical centers, since they must be administered intravenously and there is a high risk of Adverse Reactions: In this situation, researcher Laura-Oana Albulescu and her colleagues examined various compounds as possible prehospital therapies for the treatment of snakebite.

Among the tested compounds, Dimercaprol and one of its derivatives, ‘DMPS’ acid (compound to treat heavy metal poisoning), were found to inhibit activity in vitro of snake venom enzymes that depend on zinc ions to function.

In animal models the team demonstrated that ‘DMPS’ offers protection against the deadly effects of venom from scale vipers, a type of snake common in parts of Africa and Asia; According to this article, the treatment prolonged or conferred complete survival on the mice.

The researchers also found that the effect of oral application of ‘DMPS’ was further enhanced when used in combination with conventional antivenom doses.

The finding suggests that the compound ‘DMPS’ could be reused as an oral drug, to treat victims of snakebites soon after snakebites occur and before they travel to a health care facility.

However, antivenom may still be required once the patient arrives at the clinic.

Because ‘DMPS’ is a licensed, safe, and affordable medication, administered orally, “it could easily be supplied by trained volunteers from rural communities immediately after a snakebite,” Albulescu explains.

This could save thousands of lives in these rural settings, the researchers conclude, adding that phase 1 and 2 human trials must confirm these findings and the most effective doses of the drug for patients.


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