One of the over 30 species of box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri. Photo by Robert Hartwick

One of the over 30 species of box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri. Photo by Robert Hartwick

Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa developed an array of highly innovative experiments to allow scientists to safely test first-aid measures used for box jellyfish stings — from folk tales, like urine, to state-of-the-art technologies developed for the military, as reported by UH.

The power of this new array approach, published last week in the journal Toxins, is in its ability to rigorously assess the effectiveness of various treatments on inhibiting tentacle firing and venom toxicity — two aspects of a sting that affect the severity of a person’s reaction.

Box jellyfish are among the deadliest creatures on Earth and are responsible for more deaths than shark attacks annually. Despite the danger posed by these gelatinous invertebrates, scientists and medical professionals still do not agree on the best way to treat and manage box jellyfish stings.

Ignorance can cost lives

Dr. Angel Yanagihara collects Hawaiian box jellyfish (Alatina alata) at 3 a.m. along Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Photo courtesy of UH

Dr. Angel Yanagihara collects Hawaiian box jellyfish (Alatina alata) at 3 a.m. along Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Photo courtesy of UH

“Authoritative web articles are constantly bombarding the public with unvalidated and frankly bad advice for how to treat a jelly sting,” said Angel Yanagihara, lead author of the paper and assistant research professor at the UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center and John A. Burns School of Medicine. “I really worry that emergency responders and public health decision makers might rely on these unscientific articles. It’s not too strong to point out that in some cases, ignorance can cost lives.”

The results from Yanagihara and the team’s rigorous testing demonstrate that tried-and-true methods, including vinegar and hot water immersion, really do work on Hawaiian box jellyfish (Alatina alata) stings. Further, the study shows that a new therapeutic, Sting No More™, developed by Yanagihara with Department of Defense funding, inhibits the venom directly.

Testing without harm to human subjects