Global problem of fatal snakebites and promising solutions highlighted at ASTMH meeting

May 08, 2017

The tests discussed at the forum would detect bites from two deadly snakes-the Russell's viper and the krait. The krait test is in preliminary stages for potential use in South Asia. The Russell's viper test successfully completed preclinical testing with a clinical trial expected in 2012. It has been designed for Burma with plans to adapt it for wider use throughout South and Southeast Asia.

In addition, researchers discussed their progress on the development of cheaper, effective antivenoms, which are scarce or nonexistent in some parts of the world, or are too expensive.

The nonprofit Instituto Clodomiro Picado (ICP) of the University of Costa Rica has teamed up with governments, manufacturers and world-renowned universities and research institutions-including Oxford, the University of Melbourne, Instituto de Biomedicina of Valencia, Spain, and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine-to develop new antivenoms for sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

One is for the taipan of Papua New Guinea, one of the most venomous snakes in the world. Though a good Australian antivenom exists, it is scarce in Papua New Guinea because of its very high price. The new antivenom for Papua New Guinea, at a fraction of the cost, successfully completed laboratory and animal testing, with the results published in 2011 in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. A clinical trial will start this year.

This comes on the heels of two new effective antivenoms panelists worked on that are starting to be distributed in Nigeria-one for the saw-scaled viper and a "polyspecific" antivenom that works for three snakes. One is being manufactured in the UK and the other at ICP in Costa Rica, which would also produce the antivenom for Papua New Guinea.

But a new project presented at the ASTMH forum takes a different approach. The ICP will help formulate a polyspecific antivenom for five snakes in Sri Lanka and then transfer the technology to Sri Lanka for local production. The ICP is collaborating with the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and a US-based non-profit, Animal Venom Research International, said Jos- Mar-a Guti-rrez, PhD, head of the Research Division of ICP and Professor at the University of Costa Rica.

"These new antivenoms show how international partnerships between organizations that have different strengths can work together and solve problems in diverse parts of the world," he said.

The December 5th symposium, Snakebite Envenomation: From Global Awareness to Best Practice Implementation, will feature leading snakebite authorities from Bangladesh, Germany, the UK, Nepal, Nigeria and Costa Rica.

On December 6th, Warrell will present findings on new medical symptoms documented in people bitten by certain snake species in his talk, Newly Recognized Clinical Syndromes of Snakebite Envenoming.

Source: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

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