Snakebites aren’t cool, especially if they’re venomous bites, and each year it is estimated that over 100,000 people around the world lose their lives because of them.
It’s a slow and painful process. Fangs slice flesh and poison slowly works its way throughout the victim’s body, paralyzing from head to toe before suffocating them to death.
But now, one San Francisco emergency room physician believes he has stumbled upon the beginning of something that can efficiently save lives: A neostigmine intranasal spray.
The intravenous version of the drug neostigmine is already used in hospitals to reverse snake venom paralysis if antivenom is not readily available. But, when it comes to treating snakebites in tropical, rural countries where venomous snakes such as cobras and kraits are common, swift access to a hospital isn’t doable and Lewin believes a nasal spray would be an easy solution to stop paralysis and ultimately save lives.
Lewin and his good friend, University of California anesthesiology professor Philip Bickler, organized a controlled study to test the spray on a human subject. The volunteer was injected with mivacurim, which acts similarly to cobra venom. As paralysis began to take over the body, the spray was administered and the effects of the toxin were reversed completely.
A report of the study was released in the Journal Clinical Case Reports in July, detailing the astonishing test results. Could this be the new and improved solution for bites? It’s definitely a shining start, but still, neostigmine is a tricky drug that must be handled by an expert, as overdose can stop the heart.
But with the positive results, Lewin will move on to begin studying various other drugs that could potentially work even better.