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FDA approves new scorpion antivenom tested at UA

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FDA approves new scorpion antivenom tested at UA

  • Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center

The Food and Drug Administration approved a scorpion antivenom medication that was tested at the University of Arizona and produced in Mexico to treat people stung by the insect commonly found in the desert, UA researchers announced Wednesday.

"This is an historic event," said Leslie Boyer, director of the UA's Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response Institute at the College of Medicine and lead investigator on the clinical trials.

"This is the first-ever drug approved for this use by the FDA. The first-ever drug that we are aware of being developed fully in Latin America and subsequently approved by the FDA; the first-ever scorpion antivenom proved effective under controlled clinical trials; and the first-ever antivenom with so few allergic reactions,” Boyer said at a press conference Wednesday.

The drug, called Anascorp, was approved after a near 12-year collaboration between researchers and pharmaceutical businesses from both sides of the border, according to a UA press release.

Arizona has the highest concentration of dangerous bark scorpions in the United States. About 8,000 scorpion stings occur in the state each year, and several hundred of those require medical treatment, especially among young children.

Previously, Arizonans had access to an antivenom produced at Arizona State University, but in 1999 production was halted. No known replacement existed, and the critical need for antivenom was crucial, the press release said.

While scorpion stings are not always serious and usually do not need special medical attention, they often cause a tremendous pain. Some stings can cause life-threatening reactions.

The effects can vary from a couple of minutes to a couple of days. Numbness could last a number of hours to several days, according to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

A serious scorpion sting can cause drooling, uncontrollable eye movements, uncontrollable jerking and difficulty breathing, because the central nervous system is affected, said Dr. Mazda Shirazi, medical director of the poison center, in June.

Over 1,000 scorpion stings have been recorded so far this year by the center, which serves the state outside Maricopa County.

The center advises that those stung should call (800) 222-1222 and tell the poison specialists about their symptoms.

Scorpion facts

  • Out of the 30 different species of scorpions in Arizona, only the bark scorpion holds venom that is potentially life-threatening.
  • An adult bark scorpion, light tan colored, is sometimes mistaken for being a "baby" due to its 1.5-inch long body.
  • Bark scorpions may hide in places where it is dark and cool, such as closets, toy bins and shoes.
  • Scorpions are relatively inactive during daylight. The majority of stings reported to the poison center occur at night during warm summer months.
  • To protect yourself from getting stung by a scorpion, check inside your shoes before putting them on and shake clothing and bedding to ensure a scorpion is not hidden inside.
  • Scorpions only sting if you step, sit on, touch, or come near to them. They don't attack people.
  • Scorpions sting from their tail, not from their mouth. That is why it is called a scorpion sting, not a scorpion bite.
  • Because scorpions are naturally fluorescent, you can use an ultraviolet or "black" light to find them inside your home.
  • Bark scorpions are agile enough to climb walls or furniture legs. You may want to protect infants from stings by placing the legs of cribs inside glass containers, which scorpions can't climb.
  • To protect your home from scorpions, seal up gaps in your home into which the edge of a credit card can fit.

When to call the poison center

Call the Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center at (800) 222-1222:

  • If you think someone has been poisoned
  • If someone has taken too many drugs or unknown medications
  • If you need to know more about a drug
  • If you or your pet has been stung or bitten by a poisonous creature
  • If you need information about preventing accidental poisonings
  • Source: Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center

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