Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cream may ward off jellyfish stings, Stanford study suggests


Two dozen volunteers bravely exposed their arms to jellyfish tentacles as part of a new Stanford University School of Medicine study to test a topical, over-the-counter cream designed to protect against stinging nettles. Fortunately for the volunteers, the cream appeared to be relatively effective.

"It didn’t completely inhibit the stings, but it came pretty darn close," reported Alexa Kimball, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of dermatology who directed the study. The study appears in the June issue of the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.

The Stanford researchers borrowed sea nettles from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to do the testing on volunteers in a research clinic at Stanford Hospital. These nettles are known to sting swimmers, surfers and boaters worldwide, including along the Chesapeake Bay and the coastlines of Florida and California. Their stings cause a burning sensation, as well as swelling, pain and occasional blisters.

Study collaborators at the Bert Fish Medical Center in Florida also tested a more dangerous species known as the box jellyfish or sea wasp, which is prevalent along the Florida and Texas coasts and around the Gulf of Mexico. The stings from these jellyfish can cause severe reactions and can be life-threatening, particularly in young children.

The two portions of the study involved a total of 24 volunteers who had one arm smeared with the sting-inhibiting cream, which also contains sunscreen, and the other arm with a commercial sunscreen alone. The researchers took wet jellyfish tentacles stored in tanks and placed them on the forearms of the volunteers for up to 45 seconds. The tentacles contain nematocysts, a group of nasty little cells that can eject a toxin-carrying harpoon in a fraction of a second. Kimball said the researchers had no difficulty finding willing subjects for the testing, as many were surfers or others who had been stung before and wanted to find a way to protect themselves against future injury.

She and her fellow dermatologists examined the volunteers’ arms after exposure to the tentacles, not knowing which arm had been coated with the inhibitor cream and which had sunscreen alone.

Among the 12 volunteers exposed to the Monterey Bay nettles, they found no visible changes in the arms treated with the sting inhibitor, though two participants did report mild discomfort. Of the arms smeared with sunscreen only, all 12 showed swelling and the volunteers reported discomfort, the researchers reported.

As for the group exposed to the more dangerous box jellyfish, three of the 12 treated with the sting inhibitor reported discomfort, compared with 10 in the untreated group. Only one inhibitor-treated arm had visible signs of a sting, compared to nine of those coated with sunscreen only.

"This certainly suggests the cream is going to help," said Kimball, who is director of clinical trials in dermatology. "Even if it doesn’t offer 100-percent protection, I would rather have some protection over none."

The ingredients of the cream are proprietary, but Kimball said she believes the inhibitor works in several ways. For one, it naturally repels water, making it difficult for the jellyfish to make contact with the skin, she said. It also contains a mixture of sugar and protein that is similar to a substance found in the jellyfish bell. Jellyfish use their bells as a recognition system, so that when the creature comes into contact with the substance, it thinks it’s found itself instead of some tempting human flesh. Finally, the cream is believed to disrupt the jellyfish’s communication system so that it doesn’t get the signal to release its venom, she said.

Kimball said the study doesn’t settle the question of whether the cream works in open water, though anecdotal evidence suggests it might.

Paul Auerbach, MD, former chief of emergency medicine at Stanford and one of the researchers, said he initially tried the cream about five years ago by smearing some on half of his neck and then jumping into the Mexican ocean awash in thimble jellyfish.

"The side I painted had two little red bumps on it, and the side I didn’t paint looked like a road map of Florida. That’s what convinced me we should do the studies," said Auerbach, now a member of the adjunct clinical faculty. Auerbach became a consultant to the company, Nidaria Technology, which makes the cream, marketed as SafeSea.

The study also doesn’t indicate how long the cream might remain effective during water activities. Auerbach recommends reapplication every 45 to 60 minutes in relatively calm waters or, in heavy surf, every 30 to 45 minutes.

Other collaborators on the study are Karina Zuelma Arambula, Michael Liu, MD, and Wingfield Ellis Rehmus, MD, MPH, of Stanford; Arlen Ray Stauffer, MD, Valey Levy, MD and Valerie Weaver Davis, MD of the Bert Fish Medical Center; and Amit Lotan of Nidaria Technology in Israel.

The research was funded in part by a grant from Nidaria Technology.

Ruthann Richter | Stanford University
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>