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University Of Arizona Developing New Snakebite Treatment

ridge-nosed rattlesnake
(Photo by R. Babb - Arizona Game and Fish Department)
The ridge-nosed rattlesnake is the official state reptile of Arizona.

When someone is bitten by a venomous snake, quick medical attention is critical for recovery. University of Arizona researchers are studying a treatment to help buy time for bite victims.

Snakebites are most likely to occur on mountain trails or in other wilderness areas, far away from emergency rooms or urgent care centers. The faster treatment starts, the less severe the potential effects of the bite.

Vance Nielsen, an anesthesiology professor at the UA’s College of Medicine, is working on a therapy that would prevent the loss a blood clotting protein that can result from a rattlesnake bite. Loss of that protein increases the risk of bleeding within the body, which can have serious consequences.

Dr. Nielsen said the product, a combination of carbon monoxide and iron, could be carried in ambulances or included in first-aid kits for hikers and campers to administer after a bite. It could buy time for the person to get medical help.

The product must go through laboratory and clinical trials before it is commercially available. Dr. Nielsen and his team are working with Tech Launch Arizona to bring the treatment to market.

Sara Hammond has an extensive background in journalism as well as corporate communication. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s (UA) School of Journalism, Hammond interned at the Tucson Citizen and, after graduation, spent 10 years reporting for the Portland Press Herald in Maine.