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Drug overdose treatment is helping marine animals poisoned by red tide

Posted: 8:10 PM, Nov 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-12 11:24:21-05
Overdose treatment for humans is being used to treat marine animals poisoned by red tide

SANIBEL, Fla. — A detox treatment used to treat overdoses in humans is proving successful in treating sea turtles exposed to red tide.

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, FL began the study in 2018, and The Clinic For The Rehabilitation Of Wildlife in Sanibel Island is assisting with the study.

It's the Intravenous Lipid Emulsion Therapy, a treatment typically used as an antidote for humans who've been overly exposed to a lipophilic drug, like lidocaine.

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center says lipophilic drugs cling onto fats in the human body, the same as the toxins from red tide do in marine animals.

The way the treatment works is fatty acids are directly injected into the marine animal's bloodstream.

Those fatty acids give toxins something to cling on rather than binding onto the animal's organs.

So far, 15 sea turtles have been treated with ILE Therapy, and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center says they've had a 100% success rate.

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But not only is this treatment cutting down recovery time to 24 hours, it's also cutting down on cost.

"Once turtles begin to get healthy again, they begin eating a lot, especially really large turtles and take a lot of money to feed [them]," said Dr. Justin Perrault, Director of Research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

"If you're able to really reduce recovery time by 50 percent or even more, then you're saving a lot of money in the long run," added Dr. Perrault.

Turtles that wash up to the shore poisoned by red tide are taken to The Clinic For The Rehabilitation Of Wildlife, CROW, where the treatment is administrated, and then blood samples are sent to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center for further evaluation.

CROW recently also concluded a 2017 study on treating seabirds with ILE Therapy.

They say the treatment boosted the survival rate from 25% to 85%.