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A pharmacological approach to first aid treatment for snakebite


Snake venom toxins first transit the lymphatic system before entering the bloodstream. Ointment containing a nitric oxide donor, which impedes the intrinsic lymphatic pump, prolonged lymph transit time in rats and humans and also increased rat survival time after injection of venom. This pharmacological approach should give snakebite victims more time to obtain medical care and antivenom treatment.

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Figure 1: Effects of topical application of GTNO on lymphatic transit times.
Figure 2: Effects of GTNO treatment on venom actions in anesthetized rats.

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We sincerely thank L. Milward and D. Laver for critical evaluation of the manuscript, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and Hunter Medical Research Institute for funding support and J. Weigel from The Australian Reptile Park for the donation of snake venom.

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Authors and Affiliations



M.E.S. conducted the human experiments. P.A.T. supervised the human experiments. P.J.D. conducted the rat experiments. G.K.I. provided expertise on rat experiments, supervised assays and assisted in drafting the manuscript and statistical advice. M.A.O. undertook the absorbance assays. I.M.W. provided input on the human experiments. S.A.M. undertook the statistical analysis and figure presentations. D.F.v.H. conceived of and directed the overall project, supervised the rat experiments, analyzed data and drafted the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Dirk F van Helden.

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Competing interests

D.F.v.H. has an Australian patent application (no. 2007327538) for the use of nitric oxide donors as a first aid for treatment of venomous bites.

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Saul, M., Thomas, P., Dosen, P. et al. A pharmacological approach to first aid treatment for snakebite. Nat Med 17, 809–811 (2011).

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