Medical experts are warning that snakebite antidote supplies are running out as early as 2016. If medical teams and hospitals do not have easy access to the cure for certain snake venom, it is feared that snake bite deaths could jump all over the world.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the world. Based upon an estimated five million snake bites per year, there are about 100,000 snakebite deaths. Even those who survive still suffer since many are forced to have their limbs amputated, so about 400,000 are disabled by snake venom.
The situation is made worse because some companies, such as Sanofi Pasteur, stopped producing the snakebite antidote after other companies produced cheaper products. Sanofi Pasteur produced Fay-Afrique, a very effective snakebite antidote, but the medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says supplies of the snake anti-venom will run out in June of 2016.
“We are now facing a real crisis, so why do governments, pharmaceutical companies, and global health bodies walk away when we need them most?” asked Gabriel Alcoba, a snakebite medical advisor working for Médecins Sans Frontières.
The medical advisor points out that even when the snakebite antidote becomes available again, it will cost about $250 to $500 per victim. In certain parts of the world, where living off $2 a day is the norm, this is a very large sum of money, so it is feared that the snakebite victims who need the snakebite cure the most will be harmed.
MSF has asked the World Health Organization to step up and focus on the snakebite antidote problem. Finding a universal snakebite cure is also a major concern.
“Most people who get bitten by a snake aren’t exactly sure what kind of snake it is that bit them and so having an anti-venom that works against a variety of different species is really important,” said a representative of MSF, according to the Wall Street Hedge.
The WHO said they are working on resolving the snakebite antidote supply issues, but they are having problems finding enough interested donors.
In the meantime, Science Daily reports that a universal snakebite cure is being worked on by researchers at the California Academy of Sciences.
“Antivenom is necessary, but not sufficient to manage this problem. Its limitations are fairly well known at this point and we need a better bridge to survival. It’s ironic that virtually every medical organization and practitioner wears the snake symbol, yet we have no real effective treatments for the people getting bitten,” says Dr. Lewin, Director of the Center for Exploration and Travel Health at the Academy. “Ninety-eight percent of snakebite victims live in poverty, which is perhaps why funding and innovation are lacking. The bottom line is that no one should die from a snake bite in the twenty-first century, and we’re optimistic about this promising step.”
The team tested the effectiveness of a nasally administered drug on mice injected with cobra venom. Despite being injected with fatal doses, the mice lived. The team is hoping the experimental trial proves that an easy-to-administer snakebite antidote treatment can increase survival rates in victims of venomous snakebite.
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