"People will die": Snake antivenom running out worldwide

Cobra Snake

A charity has warned that tens of thousands of people will continue to die unnecessarily from snakebite as the world is running out of antivenom.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says snakebite is a major killer but remains one of the world's most neglected public health emergencies as the global health community shows worryingly little interest in the issue.

It says a clear focus on adequate treatment and diagnostics is needed to avoid countless deaths.

See also: Star Wars outfit saves man from deadly snake bite

An estimated five million people worldwide are bitten by snakes each year, with 100,000 of these dying and 400,000 left permanently disabled or disfigured.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 30,000 people die from snakebite every year and an estimated 8,000 undergo amputations. The number of victims is likely to rise as existing stockpiles of one of the most effective antivenoms for sub-Saharan Africa, Fav-Afrique, are due to expire in June 2016.

MSF snakebite medical advisor Dr Gabriel Alcoba says: "We are now facing a real crisis so why do governments, pharmaceutical companies and global health bodies slither away when we need them most?

See also: British woman in wheelchair after snake bite on Turkey holiday

"Imagine how frightening it must be to be bitten by a snake - to feel the pain and venom spread through your body – knowing it may kill you and there is no treatment available or that you can't afford to pay for it?"

MSF increasingly treats snakebite victims, which include 300 to 400 people in Paoua, Central African Republic per year and over 300 in Agok, South Sudan in 2014. Many of the victims are children.

Snakebite mostly affects people living in rural areas with no health facilities nearby and who cannot afford expensive treatment.

Fav-Afrique, produced by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, is the only antivenom that has been proven safe and effective to treat envenoming from different types of snakes across sub-Saharan Africa.

The company ceased production of Fav-Afrique in 2014 and the last batch will expire in June 2016. No replacement product will be available for at least another two years, translating into more needless death and disability.

Julien Potet, neglected diseases advisor for MSF, says the World Health Organisation (WHO) should play a leading role to tackle snakebite as a public health issue, but is still considering it as a "neglected condition with no formal programme," despite the high mortality levels.

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"People will die": Snake antivenom running out worldwide

Although they might look cumbersome and cute, hippos are actually one of the most feared animals in Africa, and can outrun a human. When a male feels its territory is threatened, or a female thinks her offspring her in danger, these animals can be particularly dangerous. And with huge teeth and mouth that can open four feet wide, it's a good idea to steer clear.
Kills: An estimated 100-150 people a year.
Deadly technique: Hippos will charge, trample and gore its victims, and have been known to upturn boats and canoes without warning.
Lives in: Africa

Many people might not realise that the cape buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, and will react with force when it feels threatened. These beasts can weigh up to 1.5 tons and stand at 1.7 metres high; they're so intimidating that even lions don't usually consider them dinner. Cape buffalos will charge, and then gore its victim to death with its impressive horns.
Kills: An estimated 200 people a year.
Deadly technique: These animals will charge and gore their victims to death with their huge horns.
Lives in: Africa

Out of the world's 2,000 species of snake, around 250 are thought to be capable of killing a man. The Asian cobra does not have the deadliest venom, but is believed to be responsible for the biggest portion of the thousands of snakebite deaths every year. In Africa, the black mamba is the largest venomous snake and, during an attack, can strike up to 12 times, each time delivering enough neuro and cardio-toxic venom to kill a dozen men within 1 hour.
Kills: An estimated 50-125,000 people a year.
Deadly technique: A snake will use its fangs to pierce the skin and inject its paralysing venom.
Lives in: Africa, Asia, Australia, North America

Box jellyfish can have up to 60 tentacles as long as 15 feet. And each tentacle contains enough venom to kill 50 humans, making it one of the most venomous marine creatures in the world. If stung, a box jellyfish can kill a man within minutes.
Kills: An estimated 100 people a year.
Deadly technique: Jellyfish use their tentacles to pump venom and paralyse its prey. Deaths in humans are usually a result of cardiac arrest.
Lives in: Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Apart from humans, the mosquito is the deadliest creature on the planet. It kills millions of people every year through the spread of diseases like malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever. Many of the malaria victims are children under the age of five.
Kills: Two to three million people a year.
Deadly technique: Female mosquitos pierce the skin with serrated mouth parts, and inject a saliva with a thinning agent to liquidise the blood.
Lives in: Worldwide, more harmful in Africa, Asia and North America

The great white shark, which can grow up to six metres in length and weigh up to five tons, seems to have the most ferocious reputation. But, while they have been known to attack humans, most of these incidents are thought to be 'test bites', where the animal is deciphering whether he wants to eat you. And, generally, they humans are not on the menu. It is thought the aggressive bull shark is responsible for the most attacks on people. Out of the 360 shark species, only four are known killers: the great white, the bull, tiger, and the oceanic white tip.
Kills: An estimated 100 people a year.
Deadly technique: Sharks use their razor-sharp teeth to rip chunks out of its victims. Great whites usually take a big single bite, drag their victims into deeper waters, and wait until the prey bleeds to death before they eat it.
Lives in: Florida, Australia, Hawaii and South Africa.

The are lots of different species of bear, but the polar, black and grizzly are the deadliest. Native to the Arctic, polar bears could decapitate a human being with one swipe of their massive paws. Bears generally attack when they are hungry, so it's a good idea to keep food away from your camp.
Kills: An estimated 5 to 10 people a year.
Deadly technique: Bear will use their teeth and claws to maul and trample their victims.
Lives in: North America, Canada, North Pole, and Russia.

Crocodiles have been around for 200 million years, and are fearsome predators. The saltwater crocodile, or saltie, is the largest living reptile in the world, and can grow up to 21ft long and weigh 1.6 tons. These animals can run extremely fast on land, and, in the water, can swim as fast as dolphin. Many fatalities occur when people are washing or gathering food near river banks.
Kills: An estimated 600-800 people a year.
Deadly technique: Crocodiles will grab their victims with terrifying speed, and often launch into a 'death roll', weakening its prey, dragging it under water and drowning the victim.
Lives in: Africa and Australia

Out of the 1,500 species of scorpion, the African spitting scorpion is thought to be the most deadly, and can spray its venom up to a metre. Arounf 25 species of scorpion are thought to be deadly to humans.
Kills: An estimated 800-2,000 people a year.
Deadly technique: Scorpions use their tail stingers to paralyse their prey with venom.
Lives in: Worldwide; particularly Africa, the Americas and Central Asia.

Weighing in at up to eight tons, although beautiful creatures, elephants can be lethal. African elephants in particular can be aggressive, especially older bulls and young males. These creatures, unsurprisingly, are more aggressive in areas where poaching is rife or when their habitat is threatened.
Kills: An estimated 300-500 people a year.
Deadly technique: Most human deaths are result of the elephant trampling on its victim.
Lives in: Africa and India

African lions are the biggest of the big cats, and are known to kill around 70 people in Tanzania alone every year. With the destruction of their habitat, human attacks by leopards in India, and the North American mountain lion are thought to be on the increase.
Kills: An estimated 800 people a year.
Deadly technique: African lions will often use strangulation to kill their prey, while tigers will attack from the back and aim for the jugular, and mountain lions will maul their victims.
Lives in: Africa, North America, and India

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