Smartphone App Helps Snakebite Victims

by By Rachel Dennis  2018-02-25 00:00:00

Scientists in Denmark have developed a venom test kit to help doctors treat victims of snake bites. The kit was created to be simple and has only two pieces of equipment: a centrifuge and a smartphone.

For victims, surviving the snakebite requires the use of a treatment, known as anti-venom. However, receiving the correct form of treatment can be difficult. The victim must first know which kind of snake bit them. That is because each poisonous snake produces a different kind of venom.

The venom testing kit can help solve this problem.

Snake venom is made up of various protein patterns.

The different protein patterns in the venom can be used to determine the snake species. Catherine Larsen is a scientist at the Technical University of Denmark, or DTU. She said researchers found these patterns after testing different snake venoms with different small proteins.

Ivan Doudka is also with DTU. He explained that the kit works by using a smartphone app to analyze a plasma serum sample from the patient.

To create the sample, the patient's red blood cells need to first be separated. This is done by using a centrifuge which is a device created to separate fluids. The centrifuge is operated by hand and needs to be spun quickly to separate the substances.

The sample is then put into a special container that keeps the condition of the plasma serum the same. After 30 minutes, the sample is placed into a clear container called a cuvette.

The cuvette is used with a machine known as a spectrophotometer which analyzes the liquid by measuring the amount of light that is absorbed by it.

By connecting the spectrophotometer to a smartphone a smartphone app is used to show the results.

The app then identifies the type of snake and suggests the most effective anti-venom.

Andreas Laustsen, another DTU scientist, said the test kit will help doctors make quicker, possibly life-saving decisions.

The team's work could help the estimated five million people who are bitten by snakes each year. Those bites kill at least 100,000 people, and lead to around 400,000 venom-related amputations.

I'm Rachel Dennis.

VOA's Kevin Enochs reported this story. Rachel Dennis adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

venom - n. poison produced by an animal

kit- n. a set of tools or supplies that a person uses for a particular purpose or activity

equipment - n. supplies or tools needed for a special purpose

centrifuge - n. a machine that uses centrifugal force to separate substances or parts of substances (centrifugal - adj. moving away from a center)

analyze - v. to study (something) closely and carefully

serum - n. the part of blood that is like water and that contains substances (called antibodies) that fight disease

sample - n. a small amount of something that gives you information about the thing it was taken from

amputation - n. the action of cutting off a part of a person's body

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