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Research on a Novel Antivenom Using Phage Presented at MHSRS

U.S. Navy - Wednesday 13th September, 2017

Kissimmee, Fla. (NNS) -- A researcher from the Naval Medical Research Unit - San Antonio (NAMRU-SA) shared findings on the application of phages display technology expressing antivenom peptides for the treatment of envenomation during the Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS), August 27 - 30.

"Snakebite envenomation (bite/sting) is an important public health concern," said Cmdr. Jacob Glaser, Principal Investigator, Department head, Expeditionary and Trauma Medicine Department, Combat Casualty Care Directorate. "The current standard treatment approach relies on antibody based antisera, which is expensive, not universally available and is occasionally associated with adverse effects."

To combat this, Glaser and a team of researchers, including Dr. Yoon Hwang, lead researcher for the phage-based antivenom project, conducted a study on venom-specific phage that can effectively neutralize the toxicity of target snake venom components and expand to include additional snake venoms. While further research is needed, their long term plan is to create a universal antivenom, using selected venom-specific phage, that offers a highly effective, cost efficient, easy to administer, and practical alternative to existing antibody based antivenoms.

"There is a critical, yet currently unmet, need for a rapid means of therapeutic intervention of snakebite envenomations in forward and austere environments," said Glaser.

Due to high stability of phage, a naturally occurring virus, the liquid form of a phage-based antidote can be transported without special storage equipment and injected immediately using an auto-inject delivery system, making the phage-based antidote field deployable and easy to use in challenging environments.

"Once developed, this final antivenom product could show general effectiveness over multiple snakes in a geographic region," said Hwang.

The Naval Medical Research Center's eight laboratories, including NAMRU-SA, are engaged in a broad spectrum of activity from basic science in the laboratory to field studies at sites in austere and remote areas of the world to operational environments. In support of the Navy, Marine Corps, and joint U.S. warfighters, researchers study infectious diseases; biological warfare detection and defense; combat casualty care; environmental health concerns; aerospace and undersea medicine; medical modeling, simulation and operational mission support; and epidemiology and behavioral sciences.

NAMRU-SA's mission is to conduct medical, dental, and directed energy biomedical research, which focuses on ways to enhance the health, safety, performance, and operational readiness of Navy and Marine Corps personnel and addresses their emergent medical and dental problems in routine and combat operations.

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