Australian researchers have found an unlikely new field treatment for snakebite: ointment used to treat angina. A paper published today in the journal Nature Medicine suggests that snakebite victims may extend their chance of survival by one-and-a-half-times with an ointment containing nitroglycerin. The scientists found that a compound released by nitroglycerin inhibits the smooth muscle contractions that propel venom through the lymphatic system, potentially cutting the speed of envenomation by a factor of three. Tests in rodents found that this translated to a 50 percent boost in survival times. In the study, researchers from University of Newcastle and two Australian hospitals injected fifteen human volunteers with a non-toxic, venom-like substance, then traced it as it moved through their bodies. They found that slowing the lymphatic system significantly delayed the faux-venom's absorbtion into the body. Poisonous snakes kill as many as 100,000 people each year, but scientists say that the treatment needs further evaluation before it can be put into practice.
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