Los Angeles, Mar 8: Scientists have developed a 'nanodote' - a low-cost, molecular gel to counter deadly snake bites more effectively than existing anti-venoms, an advance that may save thousands of lives in rural parts of India.
Worldwide, an estimated 4.5 million people are bitten annually, 2.7 million suffer crippling injuries and more than 100,000 die, most of them farmworkers and children in poor, rural parts of India and sub-Saharan Africa with little healthcare.
"Current anti-venom is very specific to certain snake types. Ours seems to show broad-spectrum ability to stop cell destruction across species on many continents, and that is quite a big deal," said Jeffrey O'Brien of University of California, Irvine (UCI) in the US.
Researchers from University of California, Irvine synthesised a polymer nanogel material that binds to several key protein toxins, keeping them from bursting cell membranes and causing widespread destruction.
The human serum in the test tubes stayed clear, rather than turning scarlet from venom's typical deadly rupture of red blood cells.
"The venom - a 'complex toxic cocktail' evolved over millennia to stay ahead of prey's own adaptive strategies, is absorbed onto the surface of nanoparticles in the new material and is permanently sequestered there, diverted from doing harm," said Ken Shea of UCI.
Thanks to the use of readily available, nonpoisonous components, the "nanodote" has a long shelf life and costs far less, researchers said.
"Our treatment costs pennies on the dollar and, unlike the current one, requires no refrigeration. It feels pretty great to think this could save lives," " said O'Brien. The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.