Irish scientists leading the search for antidote to deadly snake bites
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Irish scientists leading the search for antidote to deadly snake bites

FOLLOWING somewhat in St Patrick’s footsteps a group of Dublin-based scientists are helping to develop a snakebite antidote that could help save tens of thousands of lives a year.

Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and Trinity College Dublin have taken a promising step towards the development of a universal cure for snakebite.

It’s hoped their research – based around the creation of an easily administered nasal spray - will help provide a fast and easy way to treat bites and increase survival rates in victims of poisonous snake attacks.

Almost five million people around the world are bitten by snakes each year – and as many as 125,000 deaths occurring as a result.

Global fatalities are up to 30 times that of land mines and in India alone snakes kill approximately a third as many people as aids and severely injure many more.

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Research co-team leader Dr Stephen P. Samuel, from Trinity College’s School of Medicine, said: “Our approach will give victims much needed time to reach the hospital, while reducing cost of treatment. This would make a profound difference in the health of millions. In the future, patients from impoverished areas should not have to take loans, sell their valuables or deny education to their children for want of better treatment.”

The traditional treatment for snakebites is with anti-venom, administered in a hospital via injection.

But the vast majority of snakebites occur in impoverished, rural populations with limited access to medical treatment.

It is estimated that more than 75 per cent of snakebite victims who die do so before they ever reach the hospital, because there is no easy way to treat them in the field.

For those who do manage to receive successful treatment, studies show the costs of hospital treatment can cause economic ruin for the individual and their family.

Dr Samuel added: “This is the first promising step towards development of a universal antidote for snake bites. We urge global health leaders to accelerate the development of affordable, innovative treatments for snakebite.”

See the full research paper online here.

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