Nationwide, carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for the deaths of roughly 430 people each year, without counting the CO victims from suicides or fires. Commonly referred to as the “invisible killer”, carbon monoxide has no color, taste, or odor. Moreover, there is no antidote for carbon monoxide poisoning, either.
The only way to treat victims that fall prey to the invisible killer is with oxygen therapy inside a hyperbaric chamber or tube. Even so, it can take up to anywhere between 20 minutes to several hours before the victim’s condition starts to improve.
A recent study published in Science Translational Medicine, however, talks about a brain protein that has been previously mutated in order to serve as a fast-acting carbon monoxide poisoning antidote. Initial experiments show that when used on lab mice, the antidote is capable of reducing the CO levels in the subjects’ bloodstream by half in just a matter of seconds after administration.
If the procedure proves safe for humans, too, paramedics will be able to provide the victims with the antidote on the spot, revive unconscious individuals affected by the carbon monoxide emissions, and ultimately save their lives.
Mark Gladwin, the lead author of the study and head of the Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, Blood and Vascular Medicine Institute division believes that the victims will have a better chance of survival if the poisoning gas’ levels are lowered even with just 15 percent.
“You want to lower levels immediately to improve oxygen delivery to the body”, says Dr. Gladwin
As of yet, the deaths that involve carbon monoxide poisoning are divided equally between suicides, unintentional exposures, and fires. Most often than not, gas leaks can occur due to poorly positioned generators or grills, faulty furnaces, or vehicles left with their engine still turned on in people’s garages.
On average, the human body can get rid of half of the carbon monoxide on its own in about 5 hours. If an individual is subjected to an oxygen therapy, the time is reduced to only 74 minutes. Moreover, the hyperbaric therapy cuts the time down to only 20 minutes. However, paramedics must also take into account the time needed for the patient to reach the treatment center, when calculating the odds of survival.
Ultimately, according to Dr. Gladwin, if the mammal testing proves successful and the U.S Food and Drug Administration gives the go-ahead, the treatment will be available for humans shortly afterward, as no alternative antidote is available.
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