Globally, snakebites are one of the most serious health problems: 138,000 people die from it every year, and about 400,000 remain disabled.
Most of the victims are residents of agricultural communities in the world's poorest countries located in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America. Two factors affect a difficult outcome: a large number of poisonous snakes in these parts and their remoteness from civilization, which makes it difficult to quickly access medical care.
Existing antidotes - drugs for intravenous administration - require special storage conditions and strict adherence to the protocol during administration, so only a physician can provide assistance to a bitten person, but his arrival in a remote area is often late.
Scientists from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, tried to find first-aid therapeutic agents for victims of snakebites. During in vitro experiments, it was found that the detoxification drug dimercaprol and its derivative 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid ( DMPS ) inhibit the activity of snake venom enzymes.
Subsequent animal experiments simulating snakebites showed that DMPS provides protection against the lethal action of sand epha venom, a snake from the viper family that is widespread in northern Africa and southern Asia up to India in the east. It turned out that the oral administration of DMPS immediately after the bite provided protection, and in combination with subsequent doses of the usual antidotes, the effect was further enhanced.
Scientists believe that DMPS - an affordable licensed drug that has long been proven safe - can be used orally before a person is sent to hospital. Such early treatment, which not even doctors, but trained volunteers, can save thousands of lives in the poorest parts of the world.