The Arizona Republic / Tom Tingl
Britt Hunter, left, and her daughter, Molly, play at home in Chandler, Ariz., April 11. Hunter is thankful that scorpion antivenin was available at Chandler Regional Hospital after her daughter was stung two months ago and went into convulsions. The little girl is now healthy and happy.
updated 4/13/2006 5:41:43 PM ET 2006-04-13T21:41:43

Three hospitals in Arizona, all in metropolitan Phoenix, are testing a new antivenin designed to counter the effects of scorpion bites in children.

The drug, Anascorp, is made in Mexico and not yet approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. But a clinical trial overseen by researchers at the University of Arizona and the Arizona Poison Center in Tucson has seen the drug used in 50 Arizona children, with dramatic effects.

Dr. Bryan Tiffany, a physician at Chandler Regional Hospital, says the new antivenin appears to be extremely effective. He said the effects of a scorpion sting can be dramatic.

"We're most concerned with the sting from a bark scorpion," Tiffany said. "It's an intensely painful sting because of the way the toxins work and very dangerous for a child. It can be fatal."

The Arizona Republic / Tom Tingl
Dr. Brian Tiffany of the Chandler Regional Hospital holds a vial of scorpion antivenin at the hospital in Chandler, Ariz., April 11.
A child stung by a bark scorpion, a species found almost exclusively in Arizona and Mexico, will immediately complain of pain. The venom can cause neurological symptoms, including twitching and roving eye movements. The victim begins salivating profusely, to the point where a child can literally be drowning and the airway compromised, Tiffany said.

A new anti-venin is needed because a previous drug is no longer available. It too was not FDA approved and was found to have dangerous side effects.

Anascorp was developed about five years ago by a company based in Mexico City, and is now widely used in Mexico.

'No serious side effects'
Dr. Leslie Boyer, director of the Arizona Poison Center, said she will appear with researchers from the University of Arizona before the FDA next month in an effort to get formal approval for the drug.

"We work with a lot of antivenins, and there is no question that this is an effective drug: You see an immediate change in the patient," Boyer said. "And we've seen no serious side effects, no adverse events attributable to the drug."'

"We are sure the children in Arizona can benefit from the special availability of this antivenin," Boyer said.

Britt Hunter believes that. Her 15-month-old daughter was bitten by a scorpion on Super Bowl Sunday, and she and her husband rushed her to Chandler Regional.

"We grabbed her and got in the car, and Molly's screams were blood-curdling," Britt Hunter said. "I was terrified, and my husband was driving like a wild man. Then Molly began salivating and shaking and her eyes were rolling. It was horrible."

They were lucky that they chose Chandler because it has the new anti-venin.

Dr. Tiffany diagnosed the bite, gave the anti-venin, and her acute symptoms eased.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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