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Scorpion toxin can be lifesaver

tech reviews Updated: Nov 11, 2007 16:14 IST

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A city-based doctor has proved that toxin from the deadly red scorpion can act as a lifesaver in a particular heart ailment termed as 'Brugada syndrome'.

Reported in the latest issue of International Medical Journal 'Lancet', Dr Himmatrao Saluba Bawaskar has shown that the drugs derived from red scorpion toxin could increase the sodium current and treat Brugada syndrome.

Brugada syndrome is an inherited disease which causes sudden and unexpected death in apparently healthy and young persons due to erratic disturbances in the heart rhythm.

Practicising and researching in his private hospital at Mahad in Raigad district, Dr Bawaskar treated a 10-year-old boy stung by a red scorpion, having symptoms of Brugada Syndrome, with his devenoming preparation 'Prazosin', a postsynaptic alpha blocker and saved him.

A follow-up after two years showed that the boy is having normal ECG and doing fine. Prazosin was developed by Bawaskar in early 1980s.

The journal report said, in this particular case, the Brugada syndrome may have been serendipitously unmasked by scorpion toxin. Although not common in India, Brugada syndrome is found in Japan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and many European countries. These patients need very expensive intra-cardiac defibrillator to survive.

"Scorpion venom could offer them a cheaper and effective alternative," Bawaskar told

Toxin from scorpions such as Mesobuthus tamulus (the Indian red scorpion) activates sodium channels and inhibits potassium channels---leading to intense and persistent depolarisation of autonomic nerves, he said.

Bawaskar has postulated that in this particular case, the initial surge in sodium current depleted intracellular sodium, and caused Brugada syndrome to manifest later, although the ECG patterns diagnostic of Brugada syndrome can appear intermittently, even without a drug challenge.

"Perhaps drugs derived from scorpion toxin could increase the sodium current and treat Brugada syndrome.

The report said although the 10-year-old boy was treated free and the family was given one day earnings and free transport to attend the hospital, they declined to follow-up. However, the patient was visited at home after two years in October and he was well with a normal ECG.

Bawaskar said, currently the intravenous preparation of 'prazosin' is not available.

Earlier this year, Bawaskar and his wife Dr P H Bawaskar had compared in the Journal of Association of Physicians of India (JAPI), the use of the already available scorpion antivenom 'antivenin' (SAV), a specific antidote to scorpion venom with formula 'Prazosin' developed by them and found that SAV is not more effective to alleviate or reverse the cardiovascular effects of scorpion venom actions in severe cases as against prazosin, which prevents and cures the cardiovascular manifestations in a severe scorpion envenomation.