Antivenom against lethal snake gives hope to developing countries

Antivenom against lethal snake gives hope to developing countries
Venom extraction from Papuan taipan. Credit: David Williams

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from the Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU) at the University of Melbourne have collaborated with scientists from the University of Papua New Guinea and the University of Costa Rica, to develop new antivenom against the lethal Papuan taipan.

The of this antivenom have been published in the international journal PLoS Neglected .

Around 750 people are bitten in PNG each year. PhD candidate David Williams from AVRU, who coordinated the project in PNG, said snakebite is a neglected public health problem compounded by antivenom shortages, poor infrastructure and inadequate health worker training in many of the world’s least developed countries, including PNG.

“Most victims of snakebite are among the poorest, least empowered people in the world,” he said.

“Access to safe, affordable medicines is a basic human right and our focus is to give that right back to victims of snakebite in PNG and other developing nations.”

“This antivenom helps give Papua New Guineans that chance.”

Researchers said the high cost of imported Australian antivenom has made it difficult for the PNG Government to meet demand. Chronic shortages have become common, creating a black market in stolen antivenoms that have been sold for up to three times their price.

Australian Research Unit Director, Dr. Ken Winkel said AVRU and its partners in PNG and Costa Rica have shown that affordable, potent antivenom to one of the world’s most lethal snakes, the Papuan taipan can be produced for less than US$100 per dose by adopting a humanitarian approach to drug development.

“The partnership between the three Universities involved in the project is a landmark example of how international cooperation can help to solve the challenge of delivering, high quality, effective antivenoms to developing world nations,” he said.

Mr. Williams said with extra funding they could pursue a rigorous randomized controlled trial to test the safety and effectiveness of the new .

Related Stories

Snakebite is a neglected threat to global public health

Nov 04, 2008

Snakebites cause considerable death and injury worldwide and pose an important yet neglected threat to public health, says new research published in this week's PLoS Medicine. The study used the most comprehensive method ...

Recommended for you

At one month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

2 hours ago

The U.S. program that requires weeks of monitoring for travelers from African countries with Ebola reaches the one-month mark Thursday. And so far, no cases of the disease have turned up.

EU calls for 5,000 doctors to fight Ebola

2 hours ago

The European Commission called for 5,000 doctors to be sent from EU states to combat west Africa's Ebola epidemic, a European source with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Guinea, hit by Ebola, reports only one cholera case

3 hours ago

The health workers rode on canoes and rickety boats to deliver cholera vaccines to remote islands in Guinea. Months later, the country has recorded only one confirmed cholera case this year, down from thousands.

Sierra Leone official: Ebola worst could be over

3 hours ago

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has been surging in recent days, may have reached its peak and be on the verge of slowing down, Sierra Leone's information minister said Wednesday.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.