The drug, which is widely used in heavy metal poisoning, can provide an effective antidote to the deadly poison of vipers.
Having settled in cities, we very rarely meet snakes, let alone poisonous ones. However, once they were one of the main threats to life, and still tens of thousands of people die every year from their bites, many lose limbs.
The effects of their toxins are rapid, and their bites often occur in remote areas, leaving no time for early medical attention. Creating injections with rapid antidotes could alleviate these problems.
A suitable antidote for common viper toxin may be a drug already known to physicians for heavy metal poisoning. This is reported by Nicholas Casewell and his colleagues from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in a new article published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The poison of each snake species is unique and contains its own unique "cocktail" of peptides.Many of them contain enzymes of metalloprotease, which instantly destroy any proteins "at hand", causing the bite to rapidly develop hemorrhage and necrosis of surrounding tissues. However, the activity of metalloprotease is fully dependent on metal ions, with which they perform their deadly reactions.
As a rule, metalloproteases use zinc ions, and viper venom contains exactly such proteins. Scientists suggest using this feature to "turn off" the enzymes of the toxin. After all, doctors have known for a long time that drugs can firmly bind heavy metals in the body, neutralizing them.
One of the most popular means in this series - unitiol, which is used in poisoning with heavy metal. It may also work with viper bites.
Snake bite managementTo test this, Caswell's team experimented with laboratory mice that were injected with viper poisons, and 15 minutes later were given an oral water solution of unitiol. Experiments have shown that the drug slows down the death of such animals, and in some cases allows them to survive.
For example, in the case of the poison of the West African viper Echis ocellatus, two of the five mice survived and three survived for 12 to 21 hours, while all the control group animals that did not receive the unitiol died within less than four hours.
The authors point out that the drug may prove to be a promising tool to at least delay the dangerous effects of the poison, extending the time window for medical care. However, this remains to be proven.
Soon, scientists are planning an expedition to Central Africa, where residents suffer from viper bites more than any other region in the world. However, even if the efficacy of the unitiol is proven, unfortunately, it will not become a single universal antidote.
As already mentioned, the poison of each species of snake is unique, and, for example, peptides in cobra toxins act differently, deliberately attacking neurons - and they require completely different antidotes.
Moreover, the 'cocktail' of snakes living in different regions may also vary, making the creation of a universal antidote almost as difficult as getting an antibiotic to help with any bacterial infection.