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Bat Medicine - 2003-03-04


Medications come in many different forms, from many different sources. Even so, we were surprised to learn that scientists are experimenting with a drug made from the saliva of vampire bats. It will be used, they say, to treat stroke victims.

VOA-TV’s George Dwyer reports.

It is an unlikely source for a potentially life saving treatment. The vampire bat, found in Central and South America, has a chemical in its saliva that dissolves blood clots. One researcher called it the most effective clot-buster he’s ever seen.

DR. CREED PETTIGREW, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY COLLEGE OF MEDICINE
"The vampire bat bites its prey and because of the presence of this protein, this clot busting protein that is in the saliva of the vampire bat, the blood flows freely, never clots and the bat can continue feeding."

Scientists have now turned some of this saliva into a drug to dissolve the blood clots that cause a stroke.

DR. ANTHONY FURLAN, CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION
"In preliminary work, this bat saliva clot-bursting drug works faster, better and lasts longer than currently available clot-bursting drugs."

The problem with currently available drugs is that they can only be given safely within the first three hours of a stroke; not enough time for most patients to reach a hospital. That's why only 2 percent of stroke patients get the emergency treatment they need. Early research suggests the drug made from bat saliva might be safe and effective hours later.

DR. ANTHONY FURLAN, CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION
"The promise and excitement is that it can help many more patients with acute stroke. It can reverse paralysis. It can reverse blindness, restore the ability to speak and restore patients’ ability to return to a relatively normal lifestyle.

Four medical centers in the U.S. have ordered the bat saliva drug for their emergency rooms and will begin testing it on stroke patients. Similar studies are already under way in Europe and Asia.

DR. CREED PETTIGREW, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY COLLEGE OF MEDICINE
"I think it will revolutionize the way acute stroke care is rendered in this country. I think it has that potential."

Researchers should know within the next two years whether the bat saliva drug lives up to its potential.

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