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The WHO strategy for prevention and control of snakebite envenoming: a sub-Saharan Africa plan

Jean-Philippe Chippaux1,2, Achille Massougbodji3, Abdulrazaq G. Habib4 [ + show more ]

J Venom Anim Toxins incl Trop Dis, 2019, 25:e20190083
Received: 28 October 2019 | Accepted: 08 November 2019 | Published online: 2 December 2019


Snakebite is a critical public health issue in tropical countries, particularly in Africa, where 20% of snakebites globally occur. In 2017, the WHO added snakebite envenoming to the category A of neglected tropical diseases. In 2019, thanks to broad institutional and international NGO support, including strong mobilization of African experts and governments, WHO launched a strategy for prevention and control of snakebite envenoming with more ambitious goals. In sub-Saharan Africa, accessibility of antivenoms and symptomatic, adjuvant or replacement therapy is a priority. Several antivenoms are available but their evaluation has not been properly carried out and they remain expensive. To date, there are no manufacturers of antivenom in sub-Saharan Africa (except in South Africa), which requires their importation from other continents. The lack of experience in antivenom choice and its use by health authorities, health personnel and population largely explains the shortage in sub-Saharan Africa. The deficiency of epidemiological data does not allow the implementation of appropriate and efficient care. It is crucial to strengthen the health system which does not have the necessary means for emergency management in general and envenoming in particular. Providing peripheral health centers with antivenoms would decrease complications and deaths. The motivation of communities at risk, identified through the epidemiological data, would be to reduce the delay in consultation that is detrimental to the efficiency of treatment. Partnerships need to be coordinated to optimize resources from international institutions, particularly African ones, and share the burden of treatment costs among all stakeholders. We propose here a project of progressive implementation of antivenom manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa. The various steps, from the supply of appropriate venoms to the production of purified specific antibodies and vial filling, would be financed by international, regional and local funding promoting technology transfer from current manufacturers compensated by interest on the sale of antivenoms.


Keywords: Snakebite, Envenomation, Antivenom, Sub-Saharan Africa, Neglected tropical diseases, Control.

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