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What is Snakebite?

A snakebite is an injury caused by a bite from a snake, often resulting in puncture wounds inflicted by the animal’s fangs and sometimes resulting in envenomation. Although the majority of snake species are non-venomous and typically kill their prey with constriction rather than venom, venomous snakes can be found on every continent except Antarctica. The outcome of snake bites depends on numerous factors, including the species of snake, the area of the body bitten, the amount of venom injected, and the health conditions of the victim. Feelings of terror and panic are common after a snakebite and can produce a characteristic set of symptoms mediated by the autonomic nervous system, such as a racing heart and nausea, and death too.

Who are Susceptible to Snakebite?

Envenoming resulting from snake bites is a particularly important public health problem in rural areas of tropical and subtropical countries situated in Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. A recent study estimates that at least 421,000 envenomings and 20,000 deaths occur worldwide from snakebite each year, but warns that these figures may be as high as 1,841,000 envenomings and 94,000 deaths. The highest burden of snakebites is in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

What are the major species of poisonous snakes and their effects?

The major groups of snakes causing envenoming are the elapids (cobras, kraits, mambas etc.) and vipers, and in some regions, sea snakes. Snake venom is a complex mixture of many different compounds. The composition and effects of venom varies considerably between species to species, but can broadly be divided into categories which include i) cytotoxins causing local swelling and tissue damage, ii) hemorrhagins which disturb the integrity of blood vessels, iii) compounds which lead to incoagulable blood, iv) neurotoxins causing in neurotoxicity and iv) mycotoxins which cause muscle breakdown

When a poisonous snake bites what are the symptoms?

The clinical features of the bites of venomous snakes reflect the effects of these venom components. These include, local tissue damage ranging from swelling of the bitten limb to skin and muscle necrosis, abnormal blood clotting and bleeding, hypotension and shock, neurotoxicity sometimes leading to paralysis of respiratory muscles requiring assisted ventilation, and renal toxicity. Although the most obvious explanation for a confirmed snake-bite with no clinical manifestations is a bite by a non-venomous species, bites by venomous species do not always cause symptoms, and only 50-70% of bites by a venomous species will actually cause envenoming.

What is Anti snake venom serum and how they can use to treat the Snakebite?

Antivenom (or antivenin or antivenin) is a biological product used in the treatment of venomous bites or Stings. Antivenom is produced by injecting a small amount of the targeted venom into an animal such as a horse, sheep, goat, or rabbit, the subject animal will undergo an immune response to the venom, producing antibodies against the venom’s active molecule which can then be harvested from the animal’s blood and used to treat envenomation Internationally, antivenoms must conform to the standards of Pharmacopoeia and the World Health Organization (W.H.O).

What is the importance of Antivenom?

Snake antivenom immunoglobulins are the only specific treatment for envenoming by snakebites Antivenom therapy is key to the medical management of snakebite and other venomous bites and stings.

Antisera are essential because:

  • No alternative successful therapy
  • High degree of mortality and morbidity in the absence of treatment
  • The diseases in which they are used represent a heavy toll of human suffering
  • Largely affects children and farmers in rural communities
  • Unfortunately there are a number of problems for developing countries in accessing and using antivenoms – W.H.O.

What needs to be done?

Snake bite is a tropically neglected public issue. The people most affected by snake bites, rabid dog bites and scorpion stings usually live in poor rural communities where medical resources are often sparse. The impact of these health issues, although dramatic and economically significant, does not appear as a priority in the design of national public health programmes. These are therefore the most neglected among today’s global health problems. The situation is particularly poignant because, in contrast to some other diseases, a highly effective treatment already exists: the timely administration of specific antiserum. Rabies, for instance, is entirely preventable even after severe exposure, provided post-exposure prophylaxis, completed with rabies immunoglobulin, can be given. Similarly, the mortality and morbidity of snake bites and scorpion stings can be reduced to very low levels by timely administration of appropriate antivenoms. The current situation of the management of potentially rabid mammal bites and envenomings by snake bites or scorpion stings worldwide is a global public health emergency. There is a lack of awareness of the magnitude of the problem by health authorities and politicians alike, due to both the scarcity of adequate statistics on the real impact of these diseases, and the lack of advocacy by and on behalf of the affected groups, mostly children and rural agricultural workers. Worldwide production of these antisera has declined, due to economic constraints that have forced the withdrawal of some private producers, and to the weakening of public-sector manufacturers in the public sector in many countries.

Moreover, the poor quality of some antisera and the resulting deficiency in their efficacy and safety, together with deficient distribution policies and inadequate training of medical and nursing staff requires an urgent international action. The gravity of this problem, and the complexity of its causes, demands from the public health community, and especially from the W.H.O and humanitarian international agencies, a concerted, rapid and effective global response to reduce the burden of human suffering incurred by rabies, and snake and scorpion envenomings.

  • A multi component scenario is required, involving producers and regulatory authorities at national, regional and global levels, with an appropriate coordination by WHO and with financial support of the international community.
  • We need competence, collaboration and coordination more than competition.