A Bacterial Cocaine Esterase Protects Against Cocaine-Induced Epileptogenic Activity and Lethality

Emily M. Jutkiewicz, Michelle G. Baladi, Ziva D. Cooper, Diwahar Narasimhan, Roger K. Sunahara, James H. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Study objective: Cocaine toxicity results in cardiovascular complications, seizures, and death and accounts for approximately 20% of drug-related emergency department visits every year. Presently, there are no treatments to eliminate the toxic effects of cocaine. The present study hypothesizes that a bacterial cocaine esterase with high catalytic efficiency would provide rapid and robust protection from cocaine-induced convulsions, epileptogenic activity, and lethality. Methods: Cocaine-induced paroxysmal activity and convulsions were evaluated in rats surgically implanted with radiotelemetry devices (N=6 per treatment group). Cocaine esterase was administered 1 minute after a lethal dose of cocaine or after cocaine-induced convulsions to determine the ability of the enzyme to prevent or reverse, respectively, the effects of cocaine. Results: The cocaine esterase prevented all cocaine-induced electroencephalographic changes and lethality. This effect was specific for cocaine because the esterase did not prevent convulsions and death induced by a cocaine analog, (-)-2β-carbomethoxy-3β-phenyltropane. The esterase prevented lethality even after cocaine-induced convulsions occurred. In contrast, the short-acting benzodiazepine, midazolam, prevented cocaine-induced convulsions but not the lethal effects of cocaine. Conclusion: The data showed that cocaine esterase successfully degraded circulating cocaine to prevent lethality and that cocaine-induced convulsions alone are not responsible for the lethal effects of cocaine in this model. Therefore, further investigation into the use of cocaine esterase for treating cocaine overdose and its toxic effects is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-420
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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