It is still the case that scorpion stings or snake bites can have dangerous or even fatal consequences – unless an antidote, or more accurately a suitable antidote, is administered quickly enough. Up to now, this has been crucial. Scientists from the University of San Diego / USA have now developed a universal polymer-based antidote. It is an antidote that removes toxins from the bloodstream – irrespective of their source.

The polymer balls, that are only 85 nanometres in diameter, are wrapped in red blood cell (erythrocyte) membranes and absorb toxins like a sponge [1]. Wrapping the polymer balls in erythrocyte membranes stops the immune system from reacting while toxins are being removed from the bloodstream.

The scientists have proved the effectiveness of their development by carrying out experiments on living organisms (in vivo): an injection of the universal antidote saved the lives of four mice after they were in contact with a toxin dose that is normally fatal. When the injection was given prophylactically, twice as many animals survived the normally fatal toxin dose.

Another hopeful finding for patients: it is reported that the polymer balls are also capable of absorbing toxins that have been produced by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.GD

[1] Che-Ming J. Hu, Ronnie H. Fang, Brian T. Luk, Liangfang Zhang, Nanoparticle-detained toxins for safe and effective vaccination, Nature Nanotechnology 8 (2013) 933–938