Venom, antivenom production and the medically important snakes of India

Whitaker, Romulus; Whitaker, Samir
September 2012
Current Science (00113891);9/25/2012, Vol. 103 Issue 6, p635
Academic Journal
Snakebite is a medically and socially significant issue in India, but the quality of treatment and reporting protocols need to be upgraded to international standards. There are currently seven pharmaceutical laboratories in India which produce antivenom against four medically important Indian snake species (cobra (Naja sp.), krait (Bungarus sp.), Russell's viper (Daboia russelii) and sawscaled viper (Echis carinatus sp.), the 'big four'. Most venom for antivenom production is sourced from Chennai, South India. While the 'big four' are responsible for a majority of serious and fatal bites, the situation is actually much more complex. In this article, we review the production of venom and antivenom in India and suggest areas of improvement. We show that several factors complicate the treatment of snakebite in India. The first is geographic, intra-species variation in venoms of cobras and Russell's vipers. Secondly, there are four species of cobra, eight species of kraits, two distinct sub-species of saw-scaled viper. In view of these observations, it is felt that identifying, evaluating and implementing changes to venom and antivenom production protocols, public education, snakebite treatment and policy in India should be an immediate priority.


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