1512 Shortage of anti-venom serum

Snake bites are considered to be one of the 24 neglected tropical illnesses. There are about 50,000 deaths from snake bites in India each year and 32,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is a 10 – 20 % chance of dying if no treatment is available. The anti-venom serum (Fav-Africa) used to be produced by Sanofi Pasteur, a world leader in the such vaccines. It was versatile, effective for most snake bites, especially those from the ocellated carpet viper endemic in West and Central Africa.


Unfortunately, Sanofi Pasteur stopped producing it in 2014. There are 11 other serums in Africa. MSF has use done in the Central African Republic with disappointing outcomes. The death rate has risen from 0.47% with Fav-Africa to 10 % with the new serum. What is more, the first injection did not always stop the haemorrhaging and it was often necessary to give several injections. After consulting the literature, MSF discovered that only 3 serums had been properly tested.


What can be done? MSF is calling on Sanofi Pasteur to assume responsibility. The World Health Organisation will have to include snake bites in its programme to fight neglected diseases. And, as serum production does not bring in great profits and is poorly organised, MSF is appealing to larger financial backers to support quality production, including field studies and the evaluation of existing products.


Pierre Daveloose

Belgian Antenna

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