May 13, 2009 -- A drug called Anascorp, which is available in Mexico but not approved in the U.S., may help children recover from severe scorpion stings.
That news appears in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers including the University of Arizona's Leslie Boyer, MD, studied 15 Arizona children, ages 1 to 10, who were admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit within five hours of being stung by a scorpion.
Scorpion stings don't always require intensive care, but children are more likely than adults to have severe reactions -- including neurological and breathing problems -- to scorpion stings.
All of the children in Boyer's study got routine medical care for their scorpion sting.
In addition, eight of the kids got Anascorp, delivered intravenously. For comparison, the seven other children got a placebo instead of Anascorp.
All eight children who got Anascorp recovered within four hours after treatment, compared to one of the seven kids in the placebo group.
One hour after Anascorp treatment, none of the patients had detectable levels of scorpion venom in their blood, and two hours after Anascorp treatment, their symptoms started to ease.
Patients treated with Anascorp also needed a smaller dose of sedative while in the hospital than the children in the placebo group.
Because Anascorp hastened recovery, it might be able to be used in an emergency room instead of requiring admittance to the intensive care unit, Boyer and colleagues note.
The researchers point out that because the study was small, it's not certain that those results would apply to all kids treated with Anascorp. It's also possible that getting treated again with Anascorp could be riskier than the first treatment; the study didn't explore that risk.
In the journal, Boyer and several other researchers note grants or other financial ties to Instituto Bioclon, the Mexican company that makes Anascorp.