International Snakebite Awareness Day 2020 Saturday September 19, 2020 | #StopSnakebite | #ActForAccess

The World's Biggest Hidden Health Crisis

Since 2018, International Snakebite Awareness Day (ISBAD) has been commemorated on September 19, representing an opportunity for us all to raise awareness of the huge yet mostly unrecognized global impact of snakebite that affects millions of people each year. As Kofi Annan, who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, so succinctly put it, "it is up to the international community to be their voice."

ISBAD began following the World Health Organization (WHO) listing snakebite envenoming as a neglected tropical disease in 2018, culminating from years of campaigning by advocates and scientists alike. The following year, the WHO published a strategy for prevention and control of snakebite envenoming , including a program targeting affected communities and their health systems. In the same year, SRPNTS, the first consortium of its kind to research next-generation snakebite therapies, was launched, funded with £9 million of UK aid from the UK government through the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) .

The strategic road map outlined by the WHO aims to cut deaths and disability caused by snakebite by 50% before 2030. To achieve this, greater support and awareness is needed to galvanize the global community, including national governments, pharmaceutical companies, and non-governmental organizations to prioritize snakebite as a global health issue.

The need to increase access to life-saving snakebite treatments

Snakebite is a potentially life-threatening neglected tropical disease (NTD) that is responsible for immense suffering among some 5.8 billion people who are at risk of encountering a venomous snake. Each year, approximately 5.4 million people are bitten by a snake, or whom 2.7 million are injected with venom. Annually, this leads to 400,000 people being permanently disabled or disfigured and between 83,000-138,000 deaths, mostly in impoverished rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. A lack of affordable and effective snakebite therapies exacerbates this situation.

Survivors of untreated envenoming may be left with amputation, blindness, mental health issues, and other forms of disability that severely affect their productivity. Moreover, snakebite survivors often experience exclusion, stigmatization, and discrimination. The high cost of treating snakebite envenoming is unimaginable in most communities and puts families and communities at risk of economic peril. A single dose of antivenom can cost between $18-200 USD per vial and treatment is rarely effective with a single dose; multiple vials are often needed. In India, for example, total treatment costs can be as high as $5,700 USD. Factoring in snakebite-related supportive care costs, and the economic impact can be devastating.

In low-middle income countries, up to 40% of people who experience snake envenoming need a loan to afford treatment. The financial repercussions of surviving snakebite often mean families are forced to choose between food and education. Further, most people affected by snakebite are agricultural workers and children. Thus, with snakebite survivors unable to work or go to school, the cycle of poverty continues.

People affected by snakebite are politically voiceless but through the Minutes To Die campaign, we can amplify their voice. Watch and share the Minutes To Die movie to learn more about the world's biggest hidden health crisis and how you can help ensure that affordable and effective snakebite therapies are available to all of those at risk of snakebite.

Background photo: Family at grave of child who died from snakebite, Kenya (Lillian Lincoln Foundation)

Global antivenom crisis

The world produces less than half of the antivenom it needs, and this only covers 57% of the world's species of venomous snake . Barriers to treatment are driven by challenges plaguing antivenom production and use, characterized by a 19th Century technology which continues to have high manufacturing costs and remain unaffordable and inaccessible to the poorest people who are most in need.

Key barriers include:

• Snakes must be kept and carefully milked for their venom;

• Large animals, usually horses, must be injected with venom and their antibodies harvested in an expensive, time-consuming process, and;

• Multi-venom treatments commonly used in Africa and India have weak, unreliable effectiveness against the venom of any single snake species and may even have harmful side effects, such as anaphylactic shock.

Many manufacturers in low-income countries are abandoning the antivenom market altogether because of high production costs, further limiting treatment availability.

Background photo: Naja naja (Vivek Sharma)

Introducing SRPNTS

The Scientific Research Partnership for Neglected Tropical Snakebite (SRPNTS) , a consortium of partners in five countries, constitutes a significant investment in snakebite therapy research. SRPNTS aims to develop and treat critical illness from snake venom with next-generation snakebite therapies with broad efficacy against multiple snakes, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and India - regions with the highest snakebite morbidity and mortality burden.

Funded through a generous grant from the UK government through the FDCO, SRPNTS seeks to develop novel next generation snakebite therapies (NGSTs) with unparalleled efficacy, safety, and affordability to reduce morbidity and mortality of venomous snakebite .

For global access to life-saving next-generation snakebite therapies , these innovative products must be both available and affordable . Ensuring access to these therapies depends on global collaboration between a range of stakeholders, including governments, research institutes, non-governmental organizations, policy makers, and affected communities. To learn more about expanding access to monoclonal antibody-based products, read the Wellcome Trust and IAVI report, available here.

Our partners

SRPNTS is an international collaboration of six expert institutions in snakebite and snakebite treatment paired with antibody technologies and capabilities developed to combat HIV / AIDS.

Scripps Research / @scrippsresearch

Background photo: SRPNTS Consortium Members (SRPNTS)

Women Champions of Snakebite

In support of Health Action International's campaign for Women Champions of Snakebite, we are celebrating some of SRPNTS very own Women Champions who are contributing to snakebite on a daily basis around the world. Without their tireless effort, the work of SRPNTS would not be possible.

Background photo: Lab technician at work, IAVI lab in Kenya (IAVI)

Medically Important Snakes

SRPNTS aims to identify antibodies that bind and neutralize venom from the most medically important snakes in Africa & India and then engineer these antibodies for efficient manufacturing, and eventually, clinical testing.

Learn about six of the snakes here!

Background photo: Spectacled Cobra, Naja naja (R. Wilson)