Kenyan researchers race to develop universal snake antivenom

Written By: KBC Correspondent

Most deaths occur in rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

The Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre has begun research on venomous snakes in Baringo with a view to tackling the shortage of anti-venoms in the country.

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Baringo, Kitui and parts of the coastal region have in recent months recorded a sharp increase in snakebites, resulting in an increase in the demand for anti-venom.

The Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre has been using the sort it approaches to tackle the burden and management of snakebite in Kenya.

According to lead researcher Dr.George Omondi, the team is working towards developing the much sought after universal anti-venom for all deadly snakes.

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If they succeed, the wonder drug will save thousands of lives across the globe.

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The World Health Organization this year added snakebite to its list of neglected tropical diseases, with the true number of people who are killed likely being much higher as some countries do not keep accurate records.

The researchers hope to develop a safer, effective antivenom also for self-administration to stem the sharp increase in cases of snakebites in the area that has resulted in mortality and morbidity.

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Some of the venomous snakes in the region are cobra, puff udder, black mamba, copperhead among others.

The majority of snakebite incidences in Baringo county are reported in the first few months of the year mainly due to the weather.

Additionally, there is a high incidence of undocumented snakebite coupled with poor health-seeking behaviour among communities affected.

Access to treatment is an uphill task for rural communities since Kenya imports antivenoms making treatment expensive.

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State Department of Wildlife Principal Secretary Fred Segor said as the ministry will support the research and development of anti-venom in the region.

Unfortunately, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has suspended compensation of snakebite victims owing to rising claims bills.

Previously, compensation for a death stood at Ksh200, 000 while those with injuries were paid Ksh50,000.

The State plans to introduce an insurance scheme to manage risks and settle liabilities associated with human-wildlife conflict (HWC).

 

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