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Developing A Global Antidote For Snake Bites: 100,000 People Die From Snake Bites Each Year

Date:
December 9, 2008
Source:
University of Melbourne
Summary:
Globally snake bite affects the lives of some 4.5 million people every year, and conservative estimates suggest that at least 100,000 people die from snake bite, and another 250,000 are permanently disabled. The world's leading authorities on snake bite are launching a Global Snake Bite Initiative aimed at developing practical solutions to prevent and treat what is one of the world's most neglected tropical conditions.

Head of a Bumese Rock Python.
Credit: iStockphoto/Pauline Mills

The world’s leading authorities on snake bite recently assembled in Melbourne to launch a Global Snake Bite Initiative aimed at raising the profile and developing practical solutions to prevent and treat what is one of the world’s most neglected tropical conditions.

Globally snake bite affects the lives of some 4.5 million people every year, and conservative estimates suggest that at least 100,000 people die from snake bite, and another 250,000 are permanently disabled.

Many of the victims come from the world’s poorest nations, and a disproportionate number are young adults or children – an imbalance which has major socio-economic implications.

The meeting - part of the Inaugural Conference on Global Issues in Clinical Toxinology - aims to catalyse a fundamental change in the way that snake bite is dealt with internationally.

Dr Ken Winkel, Director of the University of Melbourne’s Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU) and colleagues, will formally launch their model for a Global Snake Bite Initiative at a special session being held at Melbourne Zoo on Thursday, 27th November.

“Australia has had a long great history in the treatment of stings and bites with innovations such as the pressure bandage, but we too can learn from the way other countries manage snake bite now and into the future” said Dr Winkel.

“While there has been an effective treatment for snake bite (antivenom) available for over a century, many countries lack access to safe, effective antivenom supplies, and the cold hard reality is that high costs place antivenom treatment outside the reach of many of those poor people who most need it”.

“Indeed although the snake is the symbol of medicine, globally, medicine seems to have forgotten about snake bite”.

The meeting, hosted by the AVRU and principally sponsored by CSL Limited, aims to set an agenda for the development of an international strategy to implement practical and sustainable solutions to specific problems associated with snake bite, including prevention, first aid, medical education and training, access to safe and affordable antivenom, and patient rehabilitation.

“In developed countries like Australia and the United States the true impact of snake bite is hard to comprehend because it is a relatively rare event, but the reality for the developing world is that snake bite is a major occupational hazard for rural people, and one, which sadly, the broader public health community has neglected for far too long” added Dr Winkel.

For the survivors of snake bite, the future is also often very bleak. Many species of snake found in the tropics produce venoms that cause extensive local tissue damage, and many thousands of victims lose limbs, or suffer permanent disability after snake bite.

Organised by Dr Ken Winkel and Mr David Williams from AVRU, the meeting will hear perspectives on the problem from delegates from as far afield as Nigeria, Kenya, India, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Closer to home, speakers from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar will join Australian, American and European experts to devise a way of reducing the current burden of snake bite injury, disability and death.

AVRU clinical toxinologist David Williams, whose work on snake bite in Papua New Guinea has featured on ABC’s “Foreign Correspondent” and Nine’s “60 Minutes” has seen the devastation that snake bite causes to poor families in a number of countries, and says “It is not good enough just to document the problem; scientists and clinicians with expertise in dealing with snake bite must commit to develop and implement, practical projects which either prevent snake bite, or lessen the suffering that comes from it.”

“In many parts of the world, snake bite causes far more cases of limb amputation that land mines, yet victims suffer in silence, or are condemned to lives of poverty and hardship simply because of a lack of access to early, appropriate treatment, and cost-effective, relevant rehabilitation” he said.

Key objectives will be to seek inclusion of snake bite on the World Health Organisation’s official list of Neglected Tropical Diseases, and to encourage commitment of specific funding for snake bite programmes by the WHO and other public health orientated organisations as has occurred for higher profile “neglected diseases”.

The focus by organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on how improving health can reduce poverty, means that important problems such as snake bite must be included, rather than excluded, from global health initiatives.

“Snakebite is a very serious yet neglected problem in many tropical developing countries, and CSL is proud to help bring together experts from all around the world to develop sustainable solutions. As principal sponsor of this landmark meeting, and with unique expertise in Antivenoms, we look forward to listening, learning and contributing to an exciting set of outcomes that will save lives and help communities in some of the world’s poorest nations” said Dr Brian McNamee, CEO and , Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of CSL Limited.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Melbourne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Melbourne. "Developing A Global Antidote For Snake Bites: 100,000 People Die From Snake Bites Each Year." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081127115320.htm>.
University of Melbourne. (2008, December 9). Developing A Global Antidote For Snake Bites: 100,000 People Die From Snake Bites Each Year. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081127115320.htm
University of Melbourne. "Developing A Global Antidote For Snake Bites: 100,000 People Die From Snake Bites Each Year." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081127115320.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

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