Care for a Bite

Vampire bats may provide treatment for blood clots in humans

  • Mark Cheater
  • Apr 01, 2003
THE VAMPIRE BAT may not have a nurturing demeanor, but a clot-busting substance in its saliva may have healing properties. The substance, desmoteplase, shows promise for safely treating stroke victims, researchers say.

Vampire bats live in Latin America and are the only bats that feed solely on other mammals’ blood. (They rarely bite humans.) "When the vampire bat bites its victim, it secretes this powerful clot-dissolving substance so that the victim’s blood will keep flowing, allowing the bat to feed," says Robert Medcalf of Monash University in Australia.

Medcalf and his colleagues tested desmoteplase on mice and found that it was nearly 200 times more selective at removing blood clots than the current treatment for strokes. In addition, unlike the current drug, desmoteplase doesn’t promote the killing of brain cells.

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