Snakebite cure could live in Mission Trails Park

Posted at 4:40 PM, Dec 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-15 21:39:18-05

Rattlesnakes are a year-round threat to San Diegans and their pets, but new information reveals that a super-cure could be ripe for discovery right in San Diego's Mission Trails Park.

That would be welcome news to Sarah Torp, who walks her dog Gaia in the park at least once a week. Torp says she always makes sure they never venture off the trails.

"Just for her safety and for my safety, and for other wild critters here," she said. 

And the one critter in particular? Rattlesnakes - a mainstay at the park. The county receives more than 1,000 rattlesnake-related calls a year. 

Getting bitten by one requires immediate medical attention. Last year, 15-year-old Brad Avey had to be airlifted from Mission Trails park after a bite.

"He was reaching down, and he has a snake in his hand, and he's pulling it off of him and he throws it," his father Thomas said. 

Researchers at San Diego State University now believe there's a chance to unlock a new cure in Mission Trails park - with squirrels and woodrats.

The two small animals can apparently shrug off a snakebite that would be deadly to humans and their pets and researchers want to find out how they do it. 

They're asking the city for permission to allow them to trap squirrels, woodrats and snakes, draw blood and venom and then lab test the resistance. The animals would be tagged and released immediately after blood and venom are drawn. Those discoveries, perhaps, could lead to better treatments for humans and their pets. 

San Diego State biology professor Rulon Clark, who is leading the project, declined to comment, saying he did not want to speculate until he had results.
The city could approve the study later this month.