A headache pill may have saved lives in Haiti

Acetaminophen could prevent kidney damage in crush victims: study

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, survivors pulled from the rubble, even if they appeared unharmed, were still at risk. “Crush syndrome,” in which muscle debris from arms and legs, once freed, overwhelms the kidneys causing them to fail, is a killer so silent that it was dubbed the “smiling death” in China because those who suffered from it appeared to be uninjured. But a recent scientific breakthrough could prevent victims of the next quake from suffering a similar fate. Olivier Boutaud, the head of a research team at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., says that a single tablet of acetaminophen could block the “chain reaction” that causes kidney failure to occur. The finding is preliminary, based on experiments in which crush syndrome was simulated in rats. The rats were given the human equivalent of the dose of acetaminophen, which was found to halt the processes that lead to kidney failure. Though the drug must undergo further testing before it is validated for use in human crush victims, Boutaud is optimistic. “We don’t know yet whether it would work, or how soon we’d need to give it to prevent kidney damage,” he says, “but we must try because it could save thousands of lives.”

New Scientist

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