Each year one and a half million people are victims of a poisoning caused by a Snake bite in sub-Saharan Africa, which is a public health problem for the continent, which is "neglected by the health authorities", according to an investigation carried out by L'Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) of France. Up to 7,000 people could die a year from this cause.
After analyzing a hundred studies and medical reports published during the last forty years, it has been seen that only 10% of the victims are treated, due to the lack of antivenoms and to a medical personnel little sensitized to these practices. However, clinical complications can be very serious, or "even fatal".
As an IRD researcher has observed, more than 300,000 people south of the Sahara are treated every year as a result of a bite. However, the difficulty of access to health centers and the habitual recourse of the population to traditional medicine, mean that many cases are not known, so this figure does not reflect the totality of the poisonings, and specialists consider that that number only symbolizes between a third and a fifth part of reality. According to the new study, there may be up to one and a half million victims a year and around 7,000 people killed due to a bite annually, while about 14,000 people would have to be amputated by a member for the same reason in the same period of time.
As for the conditions that cause these accidents, according to the study, 95% of bites occur in the field, and especially in plantations, so that the people who are most at risk are agricultural workers. The cities are not free of this danger either, although the incidence there is between ten and twenty times lower than in the rural environment.
Antidote against poison
The only effective treatment is the injection of the antivenom by venous route immediately after the bite, in order to neutralize the toxic substance. However, at present the availability of these products is reduced because their price is high and their short duration, from three to five years of life, discourages supplies. Under these conditions, "it is difficult to define budgets and allocate funds for the management of poisonings and for the installation of the necessary equipment for the sensitization of medical personnel", explain the researchers.
The only effective treatment is the injection of the antivenom by venous route immediately after the bite, in order to neutralize the toxic substance
And is that as the medical staff does not have adequate training on the use of antivenoms, these treatments can give disappointing results, which would discourage their subsequent reuse. For this reason fewer antidotes are requested and, as a consequence, manufacturers doubt the convenience of producing them because they are not sure of being able to sell them. All this reduces the accessibility to these treatments, and it has been proven that the number of doses sold has gone from close to 200,000 before 2000 to less than 20,000 in recent years. According to the IRD's research, they would be needed 500,000 doses every year. From the institute ensure that the new study will allow health authorities in the affected countries "rely on these data to improve the quality of care provided to victims, and deploy a census and surveillance device."