Drug for human overdoses treats sea turtles with brevetoxicosis
This new study revealed that when sea turtles are treated with intravenous lipid emulsion, they experience a 94% survival rate.
A recent research paper1 published by the Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers from Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) has revealed that therapy used to treat human drug overdoses—intravenous lipid emulsion (ILE)—is effective in treating sea turtles suffering from toxic red tide exposure.
According to an organizational release,2 red tides are caused by an algal species that discharges potent neurotoxins, known as brevetoxins, into encompassing water. Brevetoxins bind to fats and exposure to the toxins results in neurological symptoms in impacted animals such as muscle spasming and disorientation. This process causes mass strandings and the deaths of various marine animals, including sea turtles.
“Red tides are not going away,” said Justin Perrault, PhD, the study’s principal investigator, in the release.2 “They’re getting more intense, they last longer, and we now see them every year. ILE therapy can help us successfully treat more sea turtles suffering from brevetoxicosis.”
ILE therapy works by placing a needle into a turtle’s neck and dripping the lipid emulsion directly into the turtle's bloodstream. This treatment causes the brevetoxins to combine with these lipids that are then removed safely from the body.
Traditional therapies used for brevetoxicosis include standard and supportive care (SSC) and/or dehydration therapy which was proven to be less effective and slow-acting compared to ILE therapy. For instance, survival rates for turtles just given SSC were 47%. Meanwhile, the rate increased to 94% when they received ILE therapy.1 Additionally, nearly all symptoms cleared within 24 to 48 hours after turtles received ILE treatment versus when using SSC, symptom elimination could take up to 7 days.1
What's more, ILE has been used to treat sea birds impacted by brevetoxins as well, with promising results.
“This study will have a significant positive impact on the treatment of sea turtles affected by red tides,” said Janet Patterson-Kane, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS, Morris Animal Foundation chief scientific officer, in the release.2 “The results also lay the groundwork for ILE use in other animal species suffering from brevetoxicosis.”
ILE therapy was initially used in human medicine for drug overdose cases because it was demonstrated to have a positive effect clearing the body of lipid-soluble drugs (eg, cocaine) as well as numerous antidepressants and anti-psychotics.
- Perrault JR, Barron HW, Malinowski CR, Milton SL, Manire CA. Use of intravenous lipid emulsion therapy as a novel treatment for brevetoxicosis in sea turtles. Sci Rep. 2021; 11. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-03550-y
- Intravenous lipid solution saves sea turtles from red tide toxin. News release. Morris Animal Foundation. February 17, 2022. Accessed February 17, 2022.