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New snakebite treatment may extend window for medical care

TUCSON, April 16 (UPI) — Researchers from the University of Arizona are working to develop a new snakebite treatment which may be capable of slowing or preventing life-threatening symptoms.

The product, the university said, is meant to be a “bridge” for buying time between the initial bite and professional medical treatment and is intended for ambulances or even camper first-aid kits.

Still in its early stages of development, with many more clinical and lab tests still needed to be completed, the carbon monoxide and iron combination could halt the destruction of fibrinogen, which helps blood to clot.

The university’s vice chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Vance G. Nielsen, led the research, which was completed in association with the director of the college’s VIPER Institute, Leslie Boyer.

“People may not die from [loss of fibrinogen,] but they may have bleeding into their brain or intestine, and they may require transfusions. They may have a lot of serious consequences because of that bleeding,” Nielsen said.

Rattlesnake bites are the most common in the United States, with about 10 people dying annually from such injuries. About 8,000 people are bit a year, however. according to AZ Central.

“If you are healthy, the venom won’t likely kill you. It’s rare because of our size,” Phoenix Herpetological Society President Russ Johnson said. Still, he advises those who are bit in the hand by a rattlesnake not to localize the venom by blocking blood flow to the rest of the body — this could cause necrosis, or the destruction of tissue.

Instead, he said, raise your hand and allow the venom to spread out. “It will hurt like hell,” he warned.

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