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Headache pill can save quake victims: Study

world Updated: Feb 05, 2010 22:36 IST

A common drug used to treat headache can help save thousands of earthquake victims who die of 'crush syndrome' -- a condition in which their kidneys fail after being rescued, scientists have claimed.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, claimed that their experiments in rats have shown that the drug "acetaminophen" prevents the syndrome, also called as rhabdomyolysis, in which muscle debris from crushed limbs floods the kidneys soon after the limb is freed from rubble, causing them to fail.

"When you release the pressure on muscle through rescue, debris goes to the kidney. It's like a chain reaction, and acetaminophen blocks it," said Olivier Boutaud, who headed the research team.

Although the finding has come too late to save lives following the quake in Haiti, Boutaud is hopeful that "the treatment can be validated in humans before, or even during, the next big quake", the New Scientist reported.

According to the researchers, the destruction of muscle through crushing leads to the release of myoglobin, a protein vital for delivering oxygen to muscle and other tissue.

When the myoglobin reaches the kidneys it clogs the tubules and produces harmful chemical agents called free radicals.