Scientists are pursuing a universal cure for snake bites using HIV antibody techniques Global development

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Scientists in five countries, including the United Kingdom, hope to find a universal cure for snake bites using the same technology that has discovered HIV antibodies.

A new consortium of poison specialists in India, Kenya, Nigeria, Britain and the United States will identify and develop antibodies to treat serious snake bite diseases, which damage nearly 3 million people worldwide each year.

The consortium will seek an antidote consisting of "humanized antibodies" rather than conventional animal-based therapies, which can sometimes cause adverse effects on snake bite victims, said Prof. Robert Harrison, who heads the research and interventions center on the snake bite at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

"We are pursuing what we call the next generation of therapies for snake bites, which we hope will be able to treat the bites of any snake in Africa or India, in a community context, and without the need for a cold chain, "Harrison said.

A carpet viper rests on the ground in the county of Baringo in Kenya, where attacks of poisonous snakes are frequent



A carpet viper rests on the ground in the county of Baringo in Kenya, where attacks of poisonous snakes are frequent. Photography: Tony Karumba / AFP / Getty Images

"The conventional method of producing anti-poison to treat snake bites involves purifying antibodies from poison-immunized horses or sheep and injecting them into patients. This can cause adverse side effects and, because of that, The poison control must be administered in a hospital setting.

"This means that the victims must go to the hospital from their communities, which are usually several hours away, and at that time there is usually a very serious progression of pathology, which can sometimes lead to serious deformations or to death ".

Rory Stewart, the United Kingdom's secretary of international development, who last week announced £ 9m in UK aid to fund the research, said the new antidote would help "develop an accessible, effective and effective treatment "to succeed in case of success.

"In parts of Africa and Asia, snake bites are a daily threat, causing life-changing disabilities or – at worst – death," said Stewart.

"More than 80,000 people die each year from snake bites and, due to the huge variety of snake poisons, people often do not get the treatment they need in time, if at all."

The UK's £ 9 million commitment is among a series of recent commitments aimed at transforming snake bite management. Last week, the Wellcome Trust announced a £ 80 million program to improve current therapies and develop new ones. On Thursday, the World Health Organization announced a new strategy to halve the number of deaths from snake bites in the world by 2030.

A viper swims in the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Hickling Broad national nature reserve



A viper swims in the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Hickling Broad national nature reserve. Photograph: Don Cuddon / Courtesy of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Collectively, these commitments "provide a complete change in snake bite management and real hope for the future," said Harrison.

"In the last 50 or 60 years, there has been no substantial investment, so this is a profound change in the game. In the last 20 years we have struggled to raise enough funds to fund research into improving snake bite management , and we are pleased that there is now funding for us and other major groups such as the International Aids Vaccine Initiative. The more science is thrown into this, the better the overall result will be. "

The new approach to finding a universal cure for snake bites came after Dr. Devin Sok, an American HIV scientist, realized that the methodology of localization of various strains of anti-HIV antibodies could also be applied to snake bite. Sok then contacted Harrison in Liverpool.

The poison is extracted from a living snake



The poison is extracted from a living snake. Photography: Nick Ballon / Wellcome Trust / PA

"Our consortium exemplifies how to tackle major global health challenges, such as snake bites, when leaders in different fields come together to share ideas, tools, technologies and lessons learned," said Sok.

"This type of synergy presents a working model for the identification of new solutions to long-term global health problems and to accelerate the development of products for neglected diseases".

Snake venom kills 138,000 people every year and permanently deactivates another 400,000. The victims come from the poorest areas of Africa and India, where access to antidotes varies from non-existent to minimal.

However, the anti-poison is not the only answer, according to Harrison, who stated that in sub-Saharan Africa 90% of the available products are ineffective. "They are made for snakes that are not African, or concentrations are too weak to be effective," he said.

Ben Waldmann, head of the snake bite program for Health Action International, welcomed the goal of the WHO to halve snake bite deaths by 2030, but said governments must first understand the extent of the problem by accurately recording the number of annual victims. Many victims live too far from hospitals to seek professional treatment.

"Our field research shows that victims of snake bites, without alternatives, continue to visit traditional healers as their first point of reference," Waldmann said.

Esther Ewoi, a traditional snake bite healer in Baringo County, Kenya, shows the black stone she uses to suck the poison from bites



Esther Ewoi, a traditional snake bite healer in Baringo County, Kenya, shows the black stone she uses to suck poison from bites. Photography: Tony Karumba / AFP / Getty Images

"If communities are enhanced and treatment options improved, it follows that the role of traditional healers will be reduced in favor of an effective and reliable health system."

About 250 types of snakes have medically harmful venom. The variety and complexity of their poisons represent a huge challenge for healthcare professionals.

The existing anti-venom therapies are based on 19th century methods: snakes are milked for their poison, which is then injected into large animals such as horses, whose antibodies are collected for use in the animal. man.

But these antivenomas can have harmful – and sometimes lethal – effects on patients, Harrison said, ranging from severe abdominal cramps to anaphylactic shock, because antibodies are generated by horses or sheep and therefore "strangers".

The consortium, called the Scientific Research Partnership for Neglected Tropical Snakebite (SRPNTS), will instead focus on the creation of "humanized antibodies" developed from blood cells collected from snake bite survivors, as well as from large animals including camels, cows and horses immunized with poisons. The goal is to create "the next generation of snake bite therapies that we will engineer to recognize, bind and undo all toxins from African and Indian snakes," said Harrison.

However, developing an effective antidote will take about four years of pre-clinical work, with another three years – "at least" – for production and clinical trials, he cautioned.

However, the consortium believes that their combined knowledge can fundamentally change the way snake bites are treated globally.

. (tagToTranslate) Global health (t) Global development (t) Snakes (t) Animals (t) World news (t) Wildlife (t) Environment (t) Africa (t) Central and southern Asia

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