In cold (and thin) blood: snake venom to reverse anticoagulant treatments

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/liveslow
GettyImages/liveslow

Related tags Warfarin

The use of snake venom protein-inspired candidate PseudoXa in patients taking anticoagulants, could combat severe bleeding in emergency surgery, says VarmX.

The study – published in Nature Communications​ – explores the use of venom protein-inspired compounds as safe and effective reversal agents for bleeding in subjects taking factor Xa oral anticoagulants, such as apixaban, edoxaban or rivaroxaban.

Gap in the market

The biotech branch of Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands said currently, there are no drugs available to reverse the effects of anticoagulants (taken to reduce the risk of spontaneous strokes or deep vein thrombosis), which means doctors must delay emergency surgery until the blood thinners leave the system.

“There is a significant unmet medical need for the many patients experiencing severe (internal) bleeding or requiring emergency surgery.”

“Due to the increasing use of factor Xa inhibitors for anti-coagulation, global demand for a compound such as PseudoXa is growing rapidly,” ​said the firm.

Australian venom

According to the firm, the research group was inspired by venom protein from the most venomous snake in the world: the Australian brown snake.

“In the laboratory our researchers observed that the protein did cause the blood to coagulate, but did not react to the blood thinners.”

“In this way, the effect of blood thinners is bypassed. This is ideal when a patient who takes blood thinners requires emergency surgery,” ​VarmX’s Pieter Reitsma told us.

Reitsma added companies marketing oral anticoagulants could indirectly profit from the commercialisation of safe reversal agents.

The technology is expensive, and VarmX plans to license it out in the future, he said.

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