This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
than four million people around the world are bitten by snakes each year. At
least one hundred twenty-five thousand of these people die. Almost three million others are seriously
injured. Doctors and researchers say the world does not provide enough good treatment
for poisonous snakebites. To help improve
the situation, experts have formed an international project called the Global
Poisonous snakebites are common in rural areas of many
developing countries with hot climates. Many
victims are agricultural workers and children in Asia and southern Africa. Shortages of antivenom medicines, the
treatment for snakebite, are common there.
Existing supplies may not be high quality or developed correctly for
Ken Winkel directs the University of
Melbourne's Australian Venom Research Unit.
Doctor Winkel and university scientist David Williams are among the organizers
of the Global Snakebite Initiative. Other project leaders are from Britain,
Brazil, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica and Singapore.
The International Society of Toxinology
officially supported the Initiative last month at the World Congress of Plant,
Animal and Microbial Toxins in Recife, Brazil.
Winkel says antivenom treatment is too costly for many poor people who need it
most. The drugs are developed from the
venom of poisonous snakes.
The Global Snakebite Initiative is trying to increase the
availability of good quality antivenom treatments and improve medical training for
patient care. Another goal is to help
manufacturers of antivenom medicines improve their products.
project also wants communities to learn about snakebites and first aid. It wants
more research and reporting systems. And
it aims to help national health officials choose antivenoms for their countries'
The antivenom that cures the bite of one kind of snake may
not be effective for another kind of snake.
And the medicines for a cobra bite in the Philippines may not work for someone
bitten by a similar snake in West Africa.
Experts look forward to improvements in
worldwide treatment for snakebite. But they
say the best ways to reduce death and injury from snakebites are education and
that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.