Study: Drug Extends Snakebite Survival Time

Posted June 26th, 2011 at 6:15 pm (UTC-5)
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A new study shows that a chemical compound that slows the functioning of lymph glands could raise the chances of surviving venomous snakebites.

Scientists in Australia say have found that the chemical nitric oxide can significantly slow down the time it takes for snake venom to enter the bloodstream, giving victims more time to get medical help.

In an experiment, researchers at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales rubbed an ointment containing nitric oxide around the spot where mice were injected with lethal doses of snake venom. They found that after applying the ointment, the mice lived much longer than if the ointment had not been applied.

Dirk van Helden, who headed the research, said the ointment had the same effect on human volunteers, who were injected with a harmless dye which had molecules roughly the same size as snake venom molecules.

Many snake venoms contain large molecules that can only enter the bloodstream through the lymphatic system. Van Helden said slowing down the pumping action of the lymphatic system slows the transportation of the venom into the bloodstream.

The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Medicine.

Scientists say the findings could help save many lives in countries with abundant venomous snakes. Each year, snakebites account for an estimated 100,000 deaths and 400,000 amputations worldwide.