BY SOLA OGUNDIPE
Snakebite! How often do we hear this alert? In the tropics and worldwide, generally, an estimated five million people are bitten by snakes each year of which at least 100,000 fatalities occur. Bottom line is that people keep dying as a result of snakebites,
or survive the onslaught with complications ranging from amputations to other permanent disabilities. In Africa, an estimated one million snakebites occur annually with half needing treatment.
The data for Nigeria is no less daunting. Statistics show that the estimated incidence of snakebites in the country is 174 per 100,000 populations.
For instance, between 2005 and 2010, a total of 12,398 snakebite victims were attended to at the Kaltungo Centre, in Gombe alone. From this figure, 55 deaths were recorded. Many of the snakebite victims were from Gombe, Bauchi, Taraba and Adamawa.
But this scenario is set to change. Lately, Nigeria advanced a step further in management of snake bite injuries and complications with the commissioning of the Echitab Snake Bite Control and Training Centre, Kaltungo, Gombe State. With the new laboratory and treatment centre in place, expectations are high that research activities in the country will be enhanced to the extent of ensuring that Nigeria’s Anti-Snake Venom (ASV) is produced locally.
Director of Special Projects in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Folake Ademola-Majekodunmi hinted that the National Assembly recently advocated for snakebites to be declared as a national emergency.
Ademola- Majekodunmi observed that before the commencement of the project, victims of snakebite were increasingly reluctant to seek medical assistance, no thanks to perpetual shortage and high cost of anti-snake venom (ASV). Rather, ineffective and potentially dangerous remedies such as the “black stone” have gained notoriety – unwittingly increasing number of patients with severe complications and disabilities such as amputation of limbs.
In her view, the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Oxford University, has produced three types of monovalent anti-snake venoms (Echitab) manufactured by Micropharm (London,UK) and were raised against the venom of Echis ocellatus (Carpet Viper), Naja nigricollis (cobra) and Bitis arientas (Puff Adder).
Anti-snake venoms developed so far include: Echitab (fab)1/Echitab g(ET-G): A monovalent product against Echis ocellatus and partly others which have an expiry period of three years.
It was gathered that the anti-snake venoms produced in collaboration with UK partners, are reputed to be highly efficient with 99.9 percent cure rate in addition to being cost- effective.
Mrs.Hauwa Keri, a Director with the NAFDAC, recalled that under the PTF scheme, funds were made available for continued research into the anti-snake venom development which enabled the Federal Ministry of Health to seek proper licensing of the developed ASV from NAFDAC.
Keri assured the research produced clinically proven, effective and safe anti venom that neutralises the effect of the snake venom and permanently restores blood coagulability within hours. She added that all protocols were followed before, during and after phases 1 and 11
clinical trials which were carried out in the same facility in Kaltungo, at Zamko in Plateau State and JUTH, EchiTAb was then registered and issued a NAFDAC Registration Number (NRN).