Costa Rica Creates Antivenin For Three Nigerian Snakes
By Dialogo April 16, 2009Costa Rica has created an antivenin serum to combat the venom of three Nigerian serpents which bite a total of 150,000 people a year, official sources told Efe today. Yamileth Angulo, director of the state institute “Clodomiro Picado” (Instituto Clodomiro Picado), which produces these kinds of sera, told Efe that Costa Rica will send Nigeria a total of 20,000 bottles of antidote for the poison of three African snake species: echis ocellatus, bitis arietans, and naja nigricollis. Two to three of these bottles are used per patient, depending on the severity of each case, Angulo said. The researcher explained that the project is part of a World Health Organization (WHO) program to provide Africa with antidotes for snake bites, which are a problem that in that continent affects half a million people, among which 20,000 cases are fatal. In 2001, the WHO called on countries producing antivenin to offer their services at low cost to the African continent. Following this, Instituto Clodomiro Picado joined the working group Echitab, formed by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (United Kingdom) and the Ministry of Health in Nigeria. "Because there are no such snakes here, the Liverpool laboratory sent us a sample of their venom, with which we created the serum," said Angulo. The researcher stressed that to test the antidote, a clinical study was developed in Nigeria "in which 400 people, one of the largest medical samples in the case of snake venoms, participated." The study used two different antidotes, one created by the Instituto Clodomiro Picado and the other by Micropharen, an English company, and both sera passed the test successfully. "The idea is to sell inexpensive antidote to the Nigerian government so the doses can reach the largest possible number of patients," Angulo emphasized. The doctor stated that the serum was prepared in six months, but the study took two years because, after the clinical study in Nigeria, a preclinical examination and analysis of the results were required. According to the specialist, now the antidote "is ready, so at the middle or end of the year the first samples could be exported to the African country." At first, the antivenin will be used in Nigeria, but Angulo did not rule out that in the future it could be provided to other African countries where these snakes live. Instituto Clodomiro Picado, a branch of the University of Costa Rica, was established in 1970 to develop antivenin for snake bites, and currently exports its products to various parts of the world, including Africa, Japan, and Taiwan.