(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – From Halloween folklore to Hollywood films, vampire bats are often portrayed as creepy, crawly villains. But some doctors are beginning to see these creatures in a new light. A new national study is underway to see if medicine derived from vampire bat saliva, can help patients survive a stroke.
Right now, doctors only have about a 3 hour window to treat stroke patients, before blood clots kill them or do permanent damage to their brains. But the vampire bat saliva could be the key to extending that window of treatment and reducing the affects of a stroke.
“This is one of the studies that actually extends that window up to 9 hours” says Dr. Michel Torbey, MD, who is leading the study from Ohio State University Medical Center. “We’re hoping the bat saliva, in itself, dissolves the clot with lower risk of bleeding in the brain afterwards.”
Vampire bats feed off the blood of their prey, and to keep the blood flowing, their saliva contains a powerful chemical that acts as an anti-coagulant. Essentially, even small amounts of saliva can dissolve clots very quickly and efficiently.
“That’s the aspect we’re trying to use in a medical way” said Torbey.. “By giving stroke patients just enough of the dose, it would slice right through the clot, without having you bleed to death in the process.”
This is the second such study involving vampire bat saliva at Ohio State University Medical Center. The first round of tests, launched in 2006, proved that the concept and the medicine derived from bat saliva was not only safe, but was well tolerated by patients.
Now, in phase two of the study, OSU will involve more hospitals around the country, to see if the bat saliva-inspired medications actually afford doctors more time to treat strokes, and help with patient outcomes.
“Time is brain” says Torbey. “We would like to offer an option to our patients at any time they come in after a stroke. Unfortunately, the longer it takes for them to come, the less options are available, because the damage has already occurred in the brain.”
If these bat saliva drugs can extend that window from three to nine hours, it will certainly help stroke patients like Pearl Braskett, of rural Scioto, Ohio, who recently suffered a stroke while eating dinner. “I got about half way through eating it and my fork dropped out of my hand” said Braskett, “So I reached down, picked it up and put it back in my hand, and it fell out again.”
Pearl’s son recognized the signs of a stroke and immediately called for help. The problem is, the Braskett’s live miles out in the country, nowhere near a hospital that could help.
An ambulance sped Pearl to Ohio State University Medical Center with only minutes to spare in that three hour window. They were able to dissolve Pearl’s clots and “As far as I know now, there’s no aftermath of it. I’m clearer, or just as clear as I was before” he said.
Doctors didn’t use the bat saliva drugs that day, but they may in the future. After hearing about the study, Pearl volunteered to participate. Though they are not “vampire” bats, Pearl has seen his share of other varieties of bats on his farm, and the thought of using vampire bat saliva to save a life doesn’t bother him at all.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think it’ll make people aware of what can be done, or what will be done” Braskett said.
Someone suffers a stroke about every 40 seconds in this country.* They are the leading cause of long-term disability and the fourth leading cause of death.*
*Stroke Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 2011 from: http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm
La saliva de murciélago de vampiro puede ayudar durante movimientos