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Snakebite crisis gets US$100-million boost for better antivenoms

Date: 24.5.2019 

Biomedical-research funder the Wellcome Trust has announced an ambitious initiative to improve the treatment of snakebites in poor countries. Snakebites kill tens of thousands of people a year, partly because they are treated with archaic antivenoms that often work only for one species.

Kredit: Barry Rogge / Wikimedia Commons.Wellcome’s ?80-million (US$103-million) programme, announced on 16 May, aims to improve existing therapies and will also support the development of antivenoms that can treat the toxins of different snake species.

“After many years of neglect, the tragic global threat of snakebite is fortunately now receiving significantly greater attention,” says Mark Feinberg, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which also supports research into snakebite treatments.

Snakebites are a daily concern in many tropical and sub-tropical regions. The World Health Organization (WHO), which is due to publish a strategy on snakebite on 23 May, estimates that between 81,000 and 138,000 people die from snakebites each year. People in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa and India who have limited access to hospitals and medication are most at risk.

Snakebites have historically received little attention from researchers and policymakers, and few new treatments have been developed. Existing antivenoms rely on antibodies made by injecting large animals such as horses with small amounts of snake venom. They must also be refrigerated and administered by intravenous injection or infusion under the supervision of a doctor, making treatment in the field difficult.





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