The ultimate antidote to snake venom

American scientists are close to fulfilling the dream of Frank Cuesta, that reckless explorer who treats the most dangerous snakes on the planet as if they were adorable kittens. Indeed, they are developing a universal antidote against the 28 most common snake venoms on the planet.

Since 2009 the snake bite has been considered by the who like a forgotten disease. And it is a serious public health problem in many areas of the planet. They are calculated to occur 5.4 million bites a year around the world, of which among 40,000 and 125,000 end up being fatal.

Today, each species of snake has its specific antidote. In addition, these drugs must be applied cold, so if you are bitten by one of these reptiles, you can only get to the nearest hospital safely and hope that they have the right antivenom on hand. And this, in rural or jungle areas, is not always possible.

Why is it so difficult to develop an antidote against snake venom?

The work of researchers from theCalifornia Academy of Sciences,It is very complex. First, because not all snake poisons act the same way. Can cause paralysis, tissue damage, blood clotting and often a combination of these symptoms. In addition, they affect key areas of the body, such as nervous and cardiovascular systems. Therefore, they can be considered the most dangerous poisons in nature.

These effects occur because of toxins that contain. Generally, you are toxins travel through the body and attach to the receptors of our cells, blocking and rendering them useless. For example, the venom of the king cobra contains a neurotoxin that travels through the blood and reaches our neurons. There, it occupies the receptors for acetylcholine, the molecule that enables muscle movement. With these receptors disabled, the nerve impulse cannot spread and paralysis occurs. If this toxin reaches the heart or lungs, the victim may fall into a coma and die.

Often the toxin-receptor bonds are so strong that no medication can separate them. Here, and in the great variety of effects caused by snake venom, lies the difficulty of this investigation. So, What is this antidote made of?

The key: an enzyme present in snake venom

The research began in 2011 led by scientist Matt Lewin. His goal was enzyme present in a large number of poisons and which is also secreted by our body during inflammation. Its scientific name is Phospholipase 2nd sPLA2 and its function is to cut certain molecules present in the cell membrane. However, when it is out of control it causes cell damage and severe inflammation. So much so that this enzyme has been linked to Alzheimer's disease or epilepsy, among others.

When they came across these data, scientists began testing thousands of substances capable of slowing down the enzyme's effects. Of all of them, one stood out from the others: the varespladib. Lewin then transferred his discovery toYaleCenter for Molecular Discovery, where they tested it using mice. Although they are in early stages of development, this drug has shown effectiveness against 28 different species of snakes, among which the black bamba, the Indian cobra, the Cape cobra or the South American rattlesnake stand out.

Everything indicates, therefore, that in a few years we may stop worrying about these reptiles, adored and feared by human beings for thousands of years.

Source | Stat