Angina cream will help snakebite victims

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June 27, 2011 6:57 PM EST

Researchers from the University of Newcastle have found that applying a cream used to treat angina could increase the survival chances of snakebite victims. Glyceryl trinitrate a compound commonly found in the cream slows the venom toxins by 50 percent before it could enter the bloodstream.

The paper published in Nature Medicine found that applying the cream will slow down the transport of the venom from the lymphatic vessels to the bloodstream. Many snake venom toxins don't enter the bloodstream directly but are transported via the lymph vessels.

"When you are bitten by a snake, the toxins are large molecules and they get injected into tissues. They can't break into blood vessels because they are too big. So they get taken up by the lymphatic system and it takes them into the blood vessels," said lead author Dirk van Helden in a Reuters report.

The extra time the venom transfers to the bloodstream could give victims a chance to look for medical help. In the experiment van Helden and colleagues rubbed an ointment containing nitric oxide around the spot where mice were injected with snake venom. The results found that the venom slowed down considerably. The mice lived for 90 minutes with the ointment on in comparison to the 60 minutes it took for the venom to kill the mice without the ointment.

Researchers also tested human subjects but with a harmless dye instead of venom. The dye had the same size of molecules as venom and the results were the same. The ointment slowed down the pumping action of the lymphatic system.

While the ointment doesn't negate the venom this is treatment could help countless Australians in remote areas who have been bitten by a venomous snake. This treatment along with the current first aid treatment for snakebites, pressure bandaging, could help increase the survival rates of snakebite victims. Australia has some of the world's most poisonous snakes.

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