• Photo credit: JCUPhoto credit: JCU

JCU researchers working on revolutionary treatment to save lives on the battlefield

Researchers at James Cook University in Queensland have just received funding from the US Special Forces to develop a breakthrough drug therapy for battlefield casualties.

Professor Geoffrey Dobson and Research Associate Hayley Letson from JCU’s Division of Tropical Health and Medicine have received an extra $550,000 of funding from the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), so that their drug treatment might be fast tracked for use in the field within a year.

Dr Dobson said the treatment targets what battlefield surgeons call the “platinum ten minutes” after a soldier is wounded: “During the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 87 percent of all deaths among allied soldiers occurred in the first 30 minutes, before they could get to a hospital. Nearly a quarter of these, almost a thousand people, were classified as having potentially survivable wounds. Time was the killer.”

He explains: “The problem is, after a soldier suffers catastrophic blood loss and brain injury, what is a good treatment for the body is not good for the brain and vice versa, if you aim for too high a blood pressure, the casualty will bleed to death, and if you aim too low the brain will be irreversibly damaged. It’s a double-edged sword. But if we can dial in the right blood pressure it will be a world first and has the potential to save many lives on the battlefield.”

The JCU team is developing a two-stage treatment. The first shot will rescue the casualty during the first few minutes of severe haemorrhage and head trauma. The second shot is designed to stabilise them for longer periods ahead of evacuation.   The revolutionary treatment will increase the survival window of casualties and once approved will have uses outside of the military, for example in rural and remote areas with limited access to hospital facilities.

You can find out more about this revolutionary project here on the James Cook University website.

If you are interested in studying tropical health and medicine, James Cook University is one of the leading universities in the tropics, find out more about the programmes on offer by contacting Study Options.

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