New life-saving medicine against snakebite developed | News

New life-saving medicine against snakebite developed | News
New life-saving medicine against snakebite developed | News

In the United States, scientists have developed a new drug that slows the spread of snake venom in the body after a bite. This way, people who are bitten by a poisonous snake have more time to get to the hospital, where they can receive an effective antivenom. Amsterdam toxicologist Mátyás Bittenbinder explained the effect of the new drug on VRT NWS.

The new drug is a pill that contains the substance Varespladib. This substance acts on a protein, phospholipase A2, which is present both in our body and in the venom of poisonous snakes. “The toxin ensures that the prey quickly becomes immobilized and at the same time prepares the snake’s digestion. This way, the reptile is able to optimally consume its meal,” explains toxicologist Mátyás Bittenbinder at VRT NWS.

A snakebite can be life-threatening in the very short term. Shortly after the bite, tissue damage and internal bleeding may occur. You can become paralyzed and ultimately die after such a bite.


It was the American pharmaceutical company Ophirex that developed the pill. The drug was already used as an anti-inflammatory, but when Ophirex saw the link with the protein, the company began to further develop the existing drug as a pill form against snakebites.

Currently, the people who need snakebite treatment the most often cannot afford it

Mátyás Bittenbinder, toxicologist VU Amsterdam/Naturalis

Bittenbinder is enthusiastic about the drug because it is a cheap and fast way to save people with snakebites. The antivenom is very expensive due to all the purification processes involved in its production. “A dose with 10 packages easily costs between 60 and 600 dollars.” Most snakebites occur in Africa, Asia and Latin America among people who work outdoors and do not have many resources.

140,000 fatal snakebites per year

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.7 million people are poisoned by snakebite every year. About 140,000 of them die from the toxic bite. “With a pill that slows down the time the poison takes effect, a large number of these victims may be able to be taken to hospital in time and given anti-venom,” says Bittenbinder.

Although there is also a caveat: not every snake carries the same amount of venom. “Depending on the percentage of protein you ingest after a bite, the new medicine will work better or worse,” says the Dutch venom researcher. “The time you gain depends on the type of snake and the severity of the bite.” In addition, ‘Varespladib’ is just one toxic substance. A snakebite can also contain several other toxins.

What about us?

In Flanders and the Netherlands we do not immediately have to stock up on the new medicine en masse. There is only one poisonous species of snake living in our country, the viper. The bites of the viper usually only have mild consequences such as pain, swelling or local bleeding. In the past 150 years, only 20 people have died from a viper bite. These were mainly people with weakened health.

In the travel pharmacy

The new Varespladib will first be sold in the United States and India. In the US it was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is currently still being tested on victims of biting incidents. Bittenbinder estimates that the pill will also be available from us within five years. Not to use it here, but for example to take a box of pills with you on holiday.

Research is also underway into a pill that combines the toxins of all snake species, which would make snake bites much less dangerous worldwide.

Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!

Log in or create an account and never miss anything from the stars.

Yes, I want free unlimited access

The article is in Dutch

Tags: lifesaving medicine snakebite developed News


PREV Stranded cruise passengers have been racing across Africa for six days after missing their boat | Abroad
NEXT North Korea fires missiles again | Abroad