Entries in Morphine (3)


Morphine-Like Painkiller, Minus the Complications, Found in Black Mamba Venom

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- The deadly venom of one of the most feared snakes in Africa apparently contains a painkiller that could rival morphine, but without the side effects, according to French scientists.

The black mamba, found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and reportedly the second-largest snake on the continent, unleashes a neurotoxic poison that attacks its victim’s nerves and shuts down major organs.

Without an antidote, a human being likely would be dead in six hours.

In a study reported in the journal Nature, researchers at the National Center for Scientific Research said they’d found mambalgins -- pain-killing proteins -- in the snake’s venom.

They’d examined 50 different species of snakes before the black mamba discovery, which has been tested on mice.

“The analgesia was as strong as morphine,” Dr. Eric Linguieglia of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology told the BBC, “but you don’t have most of the side effects.”

Though highly effective in eradicating pain, morphine is known to cause headaches, vomiting and other symptoms. It is also addictive.

In the mice, the black mamba’s proteins reportedly targeted pain differently than morphine, whose path through the brain can cause nausea.

Dr. Michael Roizen, an internist and anesthesiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told ABC News that if the mambalgins were able to relieve patients of severe pain without the side effects associated with other therapies like morphine, “it would be a major advancement.”

“It’s a new avenue, a new approach to therapies,” he said Thursday. “You’d love it to work.”

He cautioned, as the study’s authors did, that the research was still in its very early stages.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aimee Copeland Faces Skin Grafts, Powers Through Pain

ABC News(ATLANTA) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student recovering from flesh-eating disease, is having surgery to replace swaths of bacteria-ravaged skin, her father said.

It has been six weeks since Copeland, 24, cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zipline near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting a deadly infection that claimed her left leg, right foot and hands. Doctors also removed skin covering her abdomen and hip, leaving a gaping wound that has been dutifully covered with sterile bandages in advance of a skin graft Friday.

"The area of her wound, which I saw for the first time on Sunday during a dressing change, is massive," Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, wrote in a blog post.

But the sprawling wound looked clean and red, Andy Copeland said, meaning tiny blood vessels had made their way up to the surface, ready to feed a transplanted layer of skin.

"You have to have a wound bed that's healthy and well vascularized," said Dr. J. Blair Summitt, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., describing the "beefy-looking" tissue that helps seal a skin graft to a wound. "If the wound's infected, the graft won't take."

A skin graft is a thin patch of skin surgically shaved from elsewhere on the body and transplanted onto a clean, blood vessel-laden wound bed. It replaces skin lost to burns, cancer and infections, according to Summitt, who has treated at least three people with flesh-eating disease in the past nine months.

"We can get sheets between 10 and 12 thousandths of an inch thick," he said, explaining how healthy skin quickly heals from the superficial slice as the transplanted patch sets up shop in its new home. "Within two or three days, tiny little blood vessels start to grow into the graft. It's a fairly straightforward procedure."

But not all skin grafts "take," as Summitt put it. Lingering infection and insufficient blood supply can prevent transplanted skin from thriving in its new home.

"It might release from the wound bed," Summitt said, describing a failed graft as a floppy piece of pale skin. "You would have to remove the skin graft that was not accepted."

And even if the graft takes, it can cause disfiguring and disabling scars that could call for more surgery down the road.

"As it heals, the graft can cause contractures," Summitt said, describing the skin shortening that can have functional, not to mention aesthetic consequences. "But you can always revise that later on."

Andy Copeland acknowledged that his daughter's skin graft Friday could be one of many.

"Aimee's wound repair is a life-long process that will require ongoing attention and medical care," he wrote. "However, the surgery today will bring her one step closer to her biggest challenge yet: rehab."

Once her wound has healed, Copeland will start learning to live with prosthetics.

"This important step in Aimee's recovery process will take months to complete," Andy Copeland wrote. "But I have no doubt that she will give it the same focused effort and determination that she gave to attain an A-average throughout her master's program -- the same effort that, thanks to God's help, has allowed her to recover to her current condition."

Copeland's determination has also helped her through painful wound dressing changes, during which she opts for meditation over morphine.

"Although that drug effectively blocks most of the pain associated with her condition, it makes her groggy and confused and it gives her unpleasant hallucinatory episodes," Andy Copeland wrote. "Part of her master's thesis is focused on holistic pain management techniques and Aimee told me that she feels she is a traitor to her convictions when she uses pharmacological pain management. ... I know the pain was significant, but Aimee's courage is greater."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mom Charged After Baby Dies from Morphine in Breast Milk

Comstock/Thinkstock(SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C.) -- A South Carolina mother has been charged with murdering her six-week-old daughter after traces of morphine were discovered in the mother's breast milk.

The six-month investigation concluded that Stephanie Greene had been abusing painkillers prior to her daughter's death, according to police.

"She had been 'doctor shopping,' visiting different doctors, each not knowing about the other," said Master Deputy Tony Ivey of the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office. "She was taking those drugs in such high quantities that, as a result, the daughter ingested it."

Greene appeared in court Friday, according to police at the sheriff's office, and has been charged with murder or homicide by child abuse or neglect, as well as 38 counts of violating state drug distribution laws. She was denied bond and Ivey said he expects her to appear in court again Monday or Tuesday in front of a circuit judge.

Police responded to an emergency call on Nov. 13 at a home in northern Spartanburg County where they found a six-week-old child who was pronounced already deceased as law enforcement arrived on the scene.

"We didn't know why at the time," said Ivey, who confirmed that test results revealed the cause of death to be an injection of high levels of prescription drugs which caused the baby to stop breathing.

Investigators spent a number of months tracking down enough evidence to arrest Greene, which Ivey said involved a series of questionings as well as a long wait for toxicology results to be finalized by the state's lab in Columbia, S.C.

Although morphine was the drug found in the infant's system, police discovered during the course of the investigation that Greene was abusing other painkillers as well, including oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Ivey said that the coroner suggested that the lethal dose killing the infant came either through the breast milk or from intentionally placing it in the child's mouth.

"We're assuming it was through breast feeding," he said, adding that this is the first case of its kind he has ever seen.

Diana West, a spokeswoman for La Leche League International, an organization that promotes breastfeeding, said that although it is possible for babies to die from medications taken by their mothers, death is unlikely in most cases if the mother is taking a prescribed amount of a drug.

"It could lead to a baby being sedated and not able to breathe clearly, but is unlikely...It depends how much of the drug she was taking," said West, referring to morphine. "Prescribed amounts of morphine are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Women shouldn't be frightened from this if they are complying with their doctor's prescription."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio