The advancement has scientists hopeful they can one day combat scorpions, spiders, and other venoms with a single treatment
Orange County, CA - January 6th 2016 - Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have announced their creation of synthetic Antivenom that could be used to treat 4.5 million people a year. Using a direct evolution method, the team was able to create a library of nanoparticles with the ability to absorb and nullify the effects of various snake venoms.
The World Health Organization estimates 2.5 million venomous snakebites occur each year. The injuries suffered from these bites kill at least 100,000 people each year with approximately 300,000 people requiring amputation or suffering from other permanent disabilities. Furthermore, most snake bites occur in Rural Areas where access to adequate medical care isn’t readily available. Too often in these cases, victims are treated with the incorrect antivenom.
Conventional antivenom exists for bite victims and are highly effective, but require the correct immunogens to manufacture quality panacea. The creation process however, is time consuming, costly, and the product, which has a low yield in production, must be refrigerated constituting additional complications for parts of the developing world. This predicament has difficulties has created a worldwide deficit of antivenom.
In the past, the research team has provided effective antivenom for bee stings, but this time the team wanted to compose a formula capable of neutralizing a broad-spectrum of toxins. Targeting the PLA2 protein family, researchers tested different nanoparticles made up of small polymers until they created several with the ability to annex a wide range of the proteins. The nanoparticles are successful in binding with the toxins, but can also bind with other proteins. However, they are eventually forced out the nanoparticles by toxins after incubation within the blood serum.
While co-author Ken Shea, a chemist at the University of California, Irvine, notes the team hasn’t determined the metrics to test the accuracy of the nanoparticles performance, the test-tube results propose relatively high likelihood of success. This month the team plans to extend their studies to an animal trial. Shea is hopeful about this next step and would eventually like, “to have a cocktail of two or three or four nanoparticles optimized against the principle protein toxins.”
The synthetic nature of the product would make it inexpensive, able to go unrefrigerated, and its broad-spectrum treatment could save time finding the proper antivenom containing the immunogens. In its development, those affected in rural areas, as well as those bitten by a species they could not identify, thousands of lives could be saved a year.
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