Experimental New Antidote to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Researchers are working towards an antidote to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Stat News article. Paramedics are in need of a medicine they can administer quickly to the victim of CO poisoning. This research is still at the preliminary stage, and a lot more work still needs to be done.

antidote to carbon monoxide poisoning

This image shows human red blood cells in red. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen to body tissues. (Flickr / Creative Commons / ZEISS Microscopy)

The study included eight mice who had been poisoned with CO. Seven of the eight mice survived the CO poisoning when given the injectable substance. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin.

CO binds to hemoglobin with many times more affinity than oxygen. The blood that circulates to the organs, including the brain, is oxygen-deprived. The carbon monoxide poisoning also fails to exhaust the toxins left in the blood by carbon monoxide.

These two factors contribute to the brain injury that can be caused by CO poisoning. Many times, after a carbon monoxide poisoning, neurologic symptoms can pop up weeks after injury. Some of the problems might include cognitive issues, depression, and anxiety.

Dr. Mark Gladwin of the University of Pittsburgh is leading the new study in animals. More research still needs to be done to determine whether it is safe in humans. However, for now, the results look promising. It is a novel approach to carbon monoxide, and a logical one too, according to Dr. Lance Becker, emergency medicine chairman at Hofstra University, who was not involved with the study.

The new antidote binds to hemoglobin with 500 times the affinity of carbon monoxide. The substance eliminates carbon monoxide from tested human blood at a much greater rate than oxygen itself. The antidote shortens the half life of carbon monoxide, or the time it takes for half of it to disappear.

As states, seven of the gith mice survived when given the antidote after exposed to lethal doses of carbon monoxide. This gives hope for the serious cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, the researchers found that the antidote restored blood pressure and improved oxygen levels in cases where there was a lower level of carbon monoxide.

The focus on this drug would be to shorten the length of time that the carbon monoxide is in the blood after exposure. However, most of the research shows that exposure to delayed symptoms is related to the peak exposure, not the length of time it takes to exhaust the CO. So while this may be helpful in returning people to baseline COHb levels, it may have no impact on reducing long term damage. Still it is exciting research and in combination with other treatments, may make a difference in the future.

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