New research is shedding light on a potential new treatment for stroke victims, but it comes from an unlikely source - the saliva of vampire bats.
These so called vampire bats are found in South and Central America. They're tiny, about the size of your thumb, but they prey on large animals like horses or cattle while the prey is sleeping. When the bat bites, an enzyme in the bat's saliva keeps the victim's blood flowing freely so that the bat can continue feeding on the animal for a long period of time. Scientists have now turned this clot busting protein in the bat saliva into a drug that can dissolve the blood clots that cause a stroke. Dr. Jack Cochran, a neurologist, says the results so far are promising:
"The group of patients given the optimal dose of the bat saliva derivative did significantly better than the people who weren't treated," said Dr. Cochran.
Four U.S. medical centers, none in Texas, have ordered the bat saliva drug for their emergency rooms and will soon begin testing the compound on stroke patients. If all goes well, FDA approval could come in about two years. The best thing about this bat saliva is it can reverse stroke damage within six hours of the onset of symptoms. The traditional clot busting drug used now is called TPA and it has a three hour window which means a patient must get it within three hours of the first sign of stroke. And that can be a challenge because people don't always take those first stroke symptoms seriously.
Coincidentally, a nurse at Covenant's emergency room asked me this week to remind people about that three hour window because she says they're seeing young people with stroke damage because they simply wait too late to get help. So this reminder...
Stroke Symptoms include:
The American Stroke Association says these are warning signs that should not be ignored. If you suffer any of those problems, you should see a doctor immediately.