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Public health aspects of snakebite care in West Africa: perspectives from Nigeria

Abdulrazaq G Habib

Author Affiliations

Infectious and Tropical Diseases Unit, Bayero University Kano, Kano, Nigeria

Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases 2013, 19:27  doi:10.1186/1678-9199-19-27

Published: 17 October 2013


Snakebite envenoming is a major public health problem among rural communities of the Nigerian savanna. The saw-scaled or carpet viper (Echis ocellatus) and, to a lesser extent, the African cobras (Naja spp.) and puff adders (Bitis arietans) have proved to be the most important cause of mortality and morbidity. The main clinical features of E. ocellatus envenoming are systemic hemorrhage, incoagulable blood, shock, local swelling, bleeding and, occasionally, necrosis. Bites may be complicated by amputation, blindness, disability, disfigurement, mutilation, tissue destruction and psychological consequences. Antivenom remains the hallmark and mainstay of envenoming management while studies in Nigeria confirm its protection of over 80% against mortality from carpet-viper bites. However, the availability, distribution and utilization of antivenom remain challenging although two new antivenoms (monospecific EchiTab G and trispecific EchiTab ICP-Plus) derived from Nigerian snake venoms have proven very effective and safe in clinical trials. A hub-and-spoke strategy is suggested for broadening antivenom access to endemic rural areas together with instituting quality assurance, standardization and manpower training. With the advent of antivenomics, national health authorities must be aided in selecting and purchasing antivenoms appropriate to their national needs while manufacturers should be helped in practical ways to improve the safety, efficacy and potential coverage against snake venoms and pricing of their products.

Antivenom; Carpet viper; Envenoming; Hub-and-spoke; Nigeria; Snakebite