About Snakebite envenoming

About Snakebite envenoming

  • Snakebite envenoming is a potentially life-threatening disease that typically results from the injection of a mixture of different toxins (“venom”) following the bite of a venomous snake.
  • Envenoming can also be caused by venom being sprayed into a person’s eyes by certain species of snakes that have the ability to spit venom as a defence measure.
  • Not all snakebites result in envenoming: some snakes are non-venomous and venomous snakes do not always inject venom during a bite.


Few Important facts regarding morbidity, disability and mortality due to snakebite envenoming

  • The recently released Global Burden of Disease 2016 study was more conservative and estimated there was a total of 79000 deaths caused by venomous animals in 2016, with an uncertainty range of 56800 to 89400.
  • An estimated 400000 people a year face permanent disabilities, including blindness, extensive scarring and contractures, restricted mobility and amputation following snakebite envenoming.
  • Of the 1,00,000 people who die globally every year from snakebite, one of the world’s most neglected tropical diseases (NTD), at least 46,000 are in India.
  • Snakebite envenoming affects people in predominantly poor, rural communities in tropical and subtropical countries throughout the world.
  • There is a large body of literature demonstrating a strong association between low socioeconomic status or poverty and a high incidence of, and mortality due to, snakebite envenoming.
  • Rural hunter–gatherers, agricultural workers, working children (10–14 years of age), families living in poorly constructed housing, and people with limited access to education and health care are all particularly vulnerable.
  • The prevalence of snakebite envenoming is inversely proportional to the level of country income: the prevalence is highest in low-and middle-income countries, and lowest in high-income countries.
  • Snakebite envenoming has a multitude of consequences for the individuals affected and their families. In many cases it pushes poor people further into poverty by virtue of high treatment costs, loss of income and enforced borrowing.


Why the WHO resolution important for India?

  • In 2017-18, 1.96 lakh cases of snakebites were recorded, with West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu reporting the biggest numbers.
  • Of the 300-odd species of snakes found in India, 52 are venomous, but all their poisons are different.
  • In India, which was a signatory to the resolution, some 50,000 die every year; however, the WHO fears this estimate may be just 10% of the actual burden.
  • Of the 1,00,000 people who die globally every year from snakebite, one of the world’s most neglected tropical diseases (NTD), at least 46,000 are in India.
  • The high case burden, poorly trained doctors, and lack of anti-snake venom (ASV) makers hobble India’s battle against snakebites.
  • India has been consistently recognised as one of the countries with highest mortality rate from snakebites, largely because of poor access to healthcare.


Recent steps taken by India in this direction

  • In the wake of the WHO resolution, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will soon start a process of consultation, and issue advisories to States on management and treatment of snakebite victims.
  • The process will begin after the team that has gone to WHO returns.
  • The onus of tackling the problem rests with the States, who have to procure the anti-snake venom vials depending on their individual requirements.
  • Health Ministry has framed guidelines to be followed by all State health institutions to tackle and deal with the serious concern about deaths due to snakebites.
  • National Snakebite Management Protocol is also in place.
  • The protocol was framed by the DGHS with technical support from the WHO’s country office in India.
  • Also in June 2018, Maharashtra approved the setting up of a National Venom Research Centre, and asked the Centre to aid the public sector Haffkine Institute in its work on snake species and poisons.
Section : Science & Tech