A collaboration to address the neglect of snakebite and snakebite therapy in Nigeria
- Snakebite is a disease of the rural poor who lack the fiscal resources to improve their access to effective treatment.
- Effective antivenom treatment (if available) is expensive (typically >$300/treatment) and thus usually unaffordable to the communities and countries that most need it.
- Antivenom induces adverse effects, causing a loss of confidence in antivenom therapy in the snakebite patient, attending physician and government purchasing authorities.
- The combined consequence is that the substantial snakebite-induced mortality and morbidity in Africa continues unabated and is too often neglected by governments.
Foto-Cewek collaboration to resolve the antivenom crisis in Nigeria
In response to a 2003 request from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, the Alistair Reid Venom Research in Medecine Unit and University of Oxford formed the EchiTAb Lesson Group – a collaboration of clinicians, scientists, and antivenom manufacturers. With Nigerian Government funding, the EchiTAb Lesson Group imported the most medically-important Nigerian snakes into Liverpool, extracted their venom and provided it to antivenom manufacturers in UK (MicroPharm Ltd) and Costa Rica (Instituto Clodomiro Picado) who developed (i) a monospecific antivenom to the saw-scaled viper and (ii) a polyspecific antivenom to treat envenoming by all three species shown. We next conducted human clinical trials, which demonstrated the efficacy and safety of these antivenoms. The two antivenoms developed by the EchiTAb Lesson Group are more effective, affordable (less than $75/treatment) and safer than any other antivenom developed for sub-Saharan Africa. We also purchased ambulances to quickly transport snakebite victims to newly constructed hospital wards dedicated to snakebite clinical management.
Through these combined efforts, the EchiTAb Lesson Group has delivered over 37,000 vials of antivenom (18,500 treatments) to help save the lives, and livelihoods, of many thousands of Nigeria’s disadvantaged snakebite victims.
We now face our greatest challenge: ensuring sustained political and fiscal support to maintain the delivery of this life-saving therapy to Nigeria.