Antivenoms remain the only antidote for snakebite envenomation. The administration of antivenom has been the integral snakebite envenoming treatment option for more than 100 years. It functions by augmenting our immune response post-snakebite envenomation. Antivenoms are raised via immunizing donor animals that possess robust immune systems (horse and sheep) with snake venoms. The resulting antibodies are capable of binding and neutralizing snake venom constituents, which in turn facilitate our own immune defenses to eradicate these toxins. Antivenoms are acquired by harvesting and then purifying the antibodies from donor animal-derived plasma.
Venomous snake venoms feature high degree of inter- and intraspecies variation. Therefore, antivenoms are only effective in neutralizing toxins that they are raised from. As per World Health Organization, there are 46 animal-derived antivenoms producing laboratories, of which 31 are government-owned and mostly based in Latin America. But only 1 is based in sub-Saharan Africa owing to lack of state-funding, commercial viability and affordability. Awareness has been raised by WHO regarding public negligence on increasing cases of snakebite envenomings. Efforts such as producing antivenoms that are more specific with enhanced efficacy and hence lesser treatment dosage for cost saving have been proposed as upcoming research pivot with the aim of increasing availability of antivenoms in impoverished area to reduce the mortality and morbidity of snakebite envenomings.
- WHO. (2019). Snake Antivenom Immunoglobulins. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/bloodproducts/snake_antivenoms/en
- Millar, A. (2019). Snake venom in pharma: access to antivenom is a topic that needs attention. Retrieved from https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/features/antivenom-supply-snake-bites
Prepared by: Chan Yi Wei and Ong Hui Ling