Biochemists have created a drug based on three to four relatively inexpensive drugs that can suppress the venom of almost all snakes from the viper family.
A group of British and Dutch chemists led by Nicholas Casewell, professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, investigated how existing drugs work on reptile toxins.
They then suggested that drugs designed to treat bacterial infections or to combat the effects of heavy metal poisoning could neutralize enzymes from snake venom. For example, the anticancer drug marimastat and dimercaprol, a drug that removes heavy metals from the body.
The mixture of these drugs worked: it can lower the concentration of zinc ions in the solution, which are critical for the venom of vipers and their relatives. All studies were carried out in mice.
Experiments have shown that this drug combination protected all mice from all snakes’ venom, except the Asian chain vipers. The venom of these snakes killed about 20% of the rodents, even when using the antidote. If these three drugs were used together with nafamostat – a fast-acting anticoagulant – then the mice were protected from all poisons.
Scientists hope to improve their inexpensive antidote and use it en masse to neutralize all types of vipers’ bites.