Researchers are working on a new nasal spray that could save thousands of people from severe snakebites in India. The nasal spray is the first attempt of its kind to save victims from one of the most unrecognized killers in the world.

Snakebites kill up to 84,000 people worldwide every year. They are most prevalent in South and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, India has the highest number of venomous bites and deaths, with more than 75 percent of snakebite victims dying before they can reach a hospital.

Currently, the most popular treatment for snakebites is an injection of antivenom, but this method has proved to be unreliable. Antivenom can vary in effectiveness depending on the snake species, the snake’s diet, geographical location and the time of year.

The nasal spray is an attempt to standardize treatment for snakebites. If administered soon after the attack, the spray — which is extremely cheap compared to antivenom — could prevent paralysis that is caused by the bite. It is easy to use and can be self-administered, unlike the injection of antivenom.

The two researchers leading the development have high hopes for the nasal spray. Matthew Lewin from the California Academy of Sciences and Stephen Samuel from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland have worked tirelessly to test the spray on mice. The mice were injected with fatal doses of Indian cobra venom, and then some were treated with the spray while others were not. The study proved that mice given the spray outlived the control group. In many cases, they survived.

“It would be one ingredient primarily directed against rapid onset paralysis — one of the causes of fast death following snakebite,” Lewin explained. “It is inexpensive and available everywhere in the world.”

In general, snakebites are often an ignored health problem around the world. The numbers, however, indicate that some research should be going toward developing a treatment. If the nasal spray proves to be an effective treatment, then people around the world will have a much higher chance of surviving these attacks.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, Science Development
Photo: The Guardian