TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A researcher at
the University of Arizona is experimenting with a new therapy to help
treat rattlesnake bites.
Dr. Vance G. Nielsen hopes that once it is ready for humans, the therapy
will be administered like an EpiPen, injected into a snakebite victim in
the field to buy the person valuable time to get to the hospital for
Nielsen, a professor and vice chair for research in the University of
Arizona Department of Anesthesiology and the College of Medicine, said
generally, venom is harmful to the nervous system and can interfere with
the normal function of blood.
In the case of blood, snake venom will either cause clotting, called
coagulation, which can lead to heart attack or stroke; or it can inhibit
clotting, called anti-coagulation, causing excessive bleeding, the
Arizona Daily Star reported .
The therapy includes injecting carbon monoxide into the venom directly
to block its effects.
“There’s a gigantic body of literature about how carbon monoxide can
make things better or worse in human medicine. I was looking at the
coagulation angle of it,” which there are not many people studying that
aspect of it, Nielsen said.
Nielsen has successfully shown the therapy blocks 36 different kinds of
venom from interacting with animal and human plasma in test tubes. He
also had successful results in live animal tests for at least an hour.
Nielsen hasn’t tested to see if the effects of the treatment could last
The next step in his research is to test a more EpiPen-like application
method, meaning direct injection into the bitten area, on animals before
any human tests are allowed.
Antivenom is the standard treatment for snakebites, Nielsen said. “This
is not to replace antivenom,” he said.
But if this therapy can keep the poisonous parts of the venom inactive,
it could lessen the damage to a victim’s body, Nielsen said.
It’s a possibility that still has to be tested, he said. But Nielsen
sees his treatment as a bridge to get victims antivenom therapy with as
little harm as possible.