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Snakebites are 'world's biggest hidden health crisis'

A multi-million pound fund has been launched to improve treatment for venomous snakebites, which are thought to kill up to 138,000 people a year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) figure is an upper-estimate because bites are not always recorded effectively in the countries they are most common.

Of the roughly 5.4million people who suffer venomous bites around the world each year, 400,000 suffer life-changing injuries such as paralysis or amputations.

Scientists have described snakebites as the world’s biggest hidden health crisis.

Existing methods to make antivenom, using antibodies extracted from horses, have not changed since the 19th century and lead to a high risk of contamination and adverse reactions in patients.

Wellcome, the London-based independent global charitable foundation, has announced £80m in funding for a new programme to focus on changing the way treatments are researched and delivered.

Bush vipers are found in sub-Saharan Africa
Image:
Bush vipers are found in sub-Saharan Africa

Professor William Hayes from the department of Earth and biological sciences at Loma Linda University, Southern California, survived a bite from a baby rattle snake.

He told Sky News it “hurt like a son of a gun” and was “not a pleasant experience”.

Professor Hayes also told us about some of the world’s deadliest snakes.

Several factors needed to considered when assessing the the relative danger of a species, such as their proximity to human populations, their venom toxicity, and how widely-spread they are.

The world’s most dangerous snakes

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