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New Approach For Venomous Snakebites Could Reduce Global Fatalities

Venomous snakes kill as many as 125,000 people each year. Snakebite is a leading cause of accidental death in the developing world, especially among otherwise healthy young people. Most die before they can reach a hospital, largely because there is no easy way to treat a snakebite in the field. Even if the snake is identified and an antivenom exists, the medicine is expensive, and requires refrigeration and significant expertise to administer.

Dr. Matt Lewin, Director of the Center for Exploration and Travel Health at the California Academy of Sciences, led an effort to find an easier way to treat snakebites where they occur. His team focused on common drugs that can reverse the deadly paralysis caused by a snake's neurotoxins. Those drugs are typically given intravenously, an approach that is difficult outside of a hospital. So Lewin put them into a nasal spray.

In an experiment in California and an actual treatment in India earlier this year, the nasal spray reversed paralysis within a half hour.

Lewin is now conducting studies to determine the best methods and drug combinations to address this neglected tropical menace.

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