A study has found that commercially available anti-venoms in India can be ineffective in treating snakebites from some specific medically-important but neglected snakes. These reptiles are the ones whose bites are harmful to humans, yet they are poorly studied.
Conducted by scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in collaboration with their counterparts from the Gerry Martin Project and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, the study states the only scientifically validated treatment for snakebites is the use of anti-venom, for which manufacturing protocols have remained unchanged for over a century.
The WHO had added snakebites to the list of neglected tropical diseases.
According to the study, in India, anti-venom is produced against big four snakes – the spectacled cobra, the common krait, Russell’s viper, and the saw-scaled viper – even though 60 out of the other 270 snakes found in India have the potential to inflict deadly, even fatal bites.
“But specific anti-venoms are not produced against these species; instead, the big four anti-venom is used to treat bites from all snakes,” it adds.
India is the snakebite capital of the world, says Kartik Sunagar, assistant professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc.
The researchers found that the anti-venoms were highly inefficient in overcoming the effects of the toxins, with one of the anti-venoms being completely ineffective against the Arunachal Pradesh monocled cobra in a mouse model and even failed to neutralise the venom of one of the major four snakes from north India – the Common Krait.
The study suggests that anti-venom manufacturers, public health officials and policymakers, need to develop region-specific snakebite therapies for the many neglected species, and improve the pan-India effectiveness of commercially marketed anti-venoms.