A viper’s venom and stroke

What does snake venom have to do with stroke? Depending on the results of a study in which Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) is participating, possibly a lot.

Doctors at YNHH are administering ancrod, a drug derived from the venom of the Malayan pit viper, to eligible patients who enter the hospital with symptoms of acute ischemic stroke.

In such cases doctors may administer a clot-breaking agent—tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA—but it must be given no more than three hours after symptoms appear. Ancrod has an anticoagulant effect and can be administered up to six hours later. “If ancrod is safe and effective,” said Joseph Schindler, M.D., assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery and clinical director of the Stroke Center at YNHH, “it will double the time frame during which stroke patients can be treated.”

YNHH is the only Connecticut hospital in the trial, which is expected to last one to two years.