Snake Bite Program SOUTH AFRICA
SAVING LIVES WITH ANTIVENOM INNOVATION – SOUTH AFRICA, 2023 & 2024
Revolutionary boost for antivenom production to effectively treat snake bites in sub-Saharan Africa.
Welcome to the latest update on the pioneering initiative aimed at transforming anti-venom production and tackling snakebite fatalities in sub-Saharan Africa. Supported by the Lööf Foundation, this project strives to confront the severe shortage of reliable snakebite treatments, especially in marginalised rural areas. Anti-venom, crucial for snakebite treatment, remains the primary effective remedy. However, access to intravenous fluids and respiratory support devices, equally vital, is often limited. Despite being listed as essential by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the availability of anti-venom remains alarmingly scarce.
In alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 3 – Good Health and Well-being, the initiative focuses on developing a sustainable solution to the pressing issue of snakebite fatalities. With an estimated 2.7 million snakebite incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in 100,000 deaths and significant long-term disabilities, urgent action is essential.
- Establish a laboratory and production facility at the Ndlondlo Reptile Park in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, for efficient anti-venom production.
- Prioritise areas with high snakebite rates and limited access to healthcare for intervention.
- Conduct product trials and training in collaboration with interested veterinarians to ensure efficacy and safety.
- Publish and disseminate trial data to raise awareness and facilitate the approval process.
- Engage researchers to analyse venom samples and explore variations in anti-venom efficacy between captive-bred and wild-caught snakes.
- Utilise the laboratory as an emergency veterinary clinic for snakebite treatment, providing hands-on experience for students and interns.
- Collaborate with medical professionals to expand services and impact across sub-Saharan Africa.
Meet the team:
The dedicated team brings together expertise and passion for reptile conservation and public health:
- Donald Schultz: South African researcher and filmmaker Donald Schultz began working with reptiles at 13 in Durban’s Fitzsimons Snake Park. In 2013, he founded Snake Pharm to develop a faster and more cost-effective antivenom, patented in the USA, Peru, and South Africa.
- Michael Perry: Michael Perry’s fascination with snakes began at age 10 in 1963. Surviving snake bites in 1971 and 1972 prompted him to refine his handling techniques. In 1999, he began milking snake venom for antivenom production and collaborated with Dr. Roger Baylock on a snake bite handbook while offering courses on snake handling and first aid.
- Neville Wolmarans: Neville Wolmarans, a self-taught reptile expert, led a snake bite prevention initiative and established reptile parks and rescue units in South Africa. His work with the Ndlondlo Reptile Rescue Unit inspired the National Geographic series “Snakes in the City,” and he has consulted for various documentary productions.
Anti-venom Production Process:
- Rescue Operations: Expert teams conduct safe snake rescues from residential areas, prioritising both human and reptile welfare.
- Precision Weighing: Captured snakes undergo careful weighing to determine the appropriate blood extraction volume.
- Doppler Technology: Advanced technology aids in locating snake hearts accurately for safe blood collection.
- Plasma Isolation: Extracted blood is centrifuged to isolate plasma, the crucial component for anti-venom production.
- Heating Process: Plasma undergoes heating to ensure efficacy, a critical step in the production process.
- Freeze-Drying: Plasma is freeze-dried for efficient storage, facilitated by specialized machinery.
The initiative has already demonstrated concrete outcomes, rescuing four dogs from boomslang bites through the production of anti-venom. This achievement highlights the effectiveness of the team’s strategy in reducing snakebite fatalities and fostering harmonious cohabitation between humans and reptiles.
Immediate Material Needs:
To support the production efforts, the project requires essential materials and equipment including consumables, laboratory supplies, and specialised machinery. Your contributions can make a significant difference in the ability to scale up operations and save lives.
Do you want to contribute or give support?
If you would like to join the Lööf Foundation in supporting this great initiative, or to learn more, you can contact us by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.