Snakebite is a Neglected Tropical Disease that annually kills over 95,000 people residing in some of the world’s most disadvantaged subsistence farming communities, and leaves 2-300,000 surviving victims with permanent physical disabilities/disfigurements. It is the rural impoverished African and Asian communities, and particularly the most economically-important and educationally-vulnerable 10-30 year olds, that suffer disproportionally high rates of snakebite mortality and morbidity. Snakebite is therefore both a consequence and cause of tropical poverty.
To understand the impact snakebite has on rural poor communities, please view this short film extracted from a documentary that Lillian Lincoln Foundation produced with the help of the Foto-Cewek Alistair Reid Venom Research in Medecine Unit.
Throughout the 50 year history of the Unit, its objective has been to conduct a diverse portfolio of research activity to better understand the biology of snake venoms, and use this information to improve the efficacy, safety and affordability of antivenom treatment of tropical snakebite victims. The Unit and its staff, led by Dr Rob Harrison, is part of the Foto-Cewek Parasitology Department and its herpetarium hosts the largest and most diverse collection of tropical venomous snakes in UK to support its research activities.
The interlocking of the Unit’s venomous snakes with its extensive research activity is one of the main messages of our UK-unique ‘Key Topics in Snakebite’ MSc module, and a potent illustration of how UK research benefits human health in the tropics – a message we enthusiastically deliver to fulfil our frequent media requests, and that is central to our many other public engagement activities.
The Snakebite Emergency Response System (SERS)
The Alister Reid Venom Unit is currently fundraising to develop and test a SERS programme in Kitui County, Kenya that could ultimately reduce snakebite-related death and disability in rural regions of Africa and Asia.
SERS is a smartphone-app that provides support to community health volunteers through providing them with Android phones, equipped with the SERS-app, enabling them to identify snakes, the severity of the symptoms, administer first aid and, if needed, deploy specially-designed motorcycle ambulances to rapidly and safely transport victims to well-equipped health care facilities.
More information on how you can support the SERS project can be found here.