Bat Saliva

New research is shedding light on a potential new treatment for stroke victims. But it comes from an unlikely source, the saliva of Vampire Bats.

Vampire Bats are found in South and Central America. They're tiny, about the size of a human's thumb. But their saliva packs a real punch. Vampire Bats prey on large animals such as horses or cattle. While the big animals sleep, the bat bites them. An enzyme in the bat's saliva keeps the victim's blood flowing freely so that the bat can continue feeding on the animal for a long period of time.

Scientists have now turned the clot busting protein in the saliva into a drug that can dissolve the blood clots that cause a stroke. A Neurologist and Director of Inova Health System's Operation Stroke says the results so far are promising.

Four US medical centers have ordered the bat saliva drug for their emergency rooms and will soon begin testing the compound on stroke patients. If everything goes well, the study will expand, and then the FDA approval of the drug could take about two years.

There's a big benefit to this new approach that could save lives. The traditional clot-busting drug for stroke patients is something called TPA. It has to be given to the patient within three hours of the first sign of stroke, and that can be a challenge because people don't always realize it right away when they're having a stroke. With this new bat saliva drug, patients can be treated within six hours and still survive a stroke with few complications.