A biologically inert blood-clotting technology could save thousands of lives without the risk of infection, its manufacturers claim.
Around half of battlefield deaths are caused by blood loss, while thousands of civilians bleed to death following road accidents.
But the new product, which consists of granules of a mineral-based compound poured directly on to the wound, will allow fellow soldiers, police officers or even the injured person to stem the blood loss while waiting for medical help to arrive. It acts so quickly that it is not necessary to apply pressure to a wound, even if an artery has been severed.
Sachets of QuikClot cost $20 (£13.50) and are being rushed to US soldiers in Afghanistan, while Connecticut-based manufacturer Z-Medica hopes the product will receive a licence for use by emergency services.
‘In the US around 50,000 people bleed to death each year, mostly following car accidents,’ said Z-Medica vice-president and director of technical services Bart Gullong. ‘The police officer is almost always first on the scene, and with access to the product our belief is that lives would be saved.’
After application, the substance rapidly absorbs liquids in the blood, leaving behind the clotting factors, which then seals the escape of further blood. In hospital QuikClot can be washed or blown from the wound.
To measure performance under battle conditions, scientists bisected the femoral artery and femoral vein of animals. Though the injuries were potentially fatal, after applying QuikClot and leaving a five-minute delay before attending to the wound, none of the animals treated died .
The material’s discovery came by chance, after scientist Frank Hursey cut himself while shaving. He was working with a number of absorptive materials and experimented by applying a volcanic mineral to his wound.
The formula of the final product is a closely guarded secret but Z-Medica has revealed that the main component is a mineral used in numerous other products from dog food to non-dairy creamers and cosmetics. As it is mineral in origin, it is chemically and biologically inert, offering no risk of contamination by bacteria and viruses.