Snake bites: they are killing thousands and now antidotes are in short supply

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Elia Tabuenca García
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Snake bites: MSF addresses the international scientific community, which still pays little attention to the need for more adequate treatments and diagnostic tools to avoid further deaths

Don't store avocado like this: it's dangerous





100 thousand are the victims of snake bites every year. It seems absurd, yet it is a serious problem raised by Doctors Without Borders which provides for the end, in less than twelve months, of stocks of the antidote to poison.

The Association's warning was addressed to the international scientific community, that still poor attention addresses the need for more adequate treatments and diagnostic tools to avoid further deaths.

According to estimates, in fact, 5 million people a year are bitten by snakes. About these 100 thousand do not survive while 400 thousand are permanently disfigured or disabled. Only in Africa sub-sahariana 30 people die of snakebite every year and 8 would suffer amputations.

And it doesn't end there: it is thought that the number of victims is even higher than the certified one, since snake bites mainly affect those living in rural areas, where there are no medical facilities nearby. As a result, many people, mostly poor, turn to traditional healers or even look for a cure. Sure, when you consider that anti-poison treatment costs up to $ 250-500 per person, the equivalent of four years' wages in these countries ...

“We are facing a real emergency. Why are governments, pharmaceutical companies and global health bodies evading the problem just when we need them most? " he wonders Dr. Gabriel Alcoba, expert in snakebite at Doctors Without Borders. "Imagine how scary it can be to be bitten by a snake, to feel the pain and poison spreading through your body, knowing that it could kill you and that there is no treatment available or in any case you cannot afford it ...".



THE ANTIDOTE (WHICH IS NOT THERE) - The FAV-Afrique by Sanofi would be the only safe and effective antidote to treat poisoning from different types of snakes across sub-Saharan Africa. But the pharmaceutical company has seen fit to close production in 2014 and the last stock will run out in June 2016. The reality, for now, is that there will be no replacement products available for at least another two years, so there will be a higher number of deaths and cases of disability.


Doctors Without Borders therefore appeals to the world scientific community, donors, governments and pharmaceutical industries to finally begin to see snakebite as a clear public health emergency.


Germana Carillo

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