London: A team of researchers is working towards creating universal snake bite anti-venom with the help of a new technique called 'antivenomics.'
Researchers from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) are using this method to increase the potency of venom extraction, which has traditionally had a low success rate due to the weakness of the venom taken.
The head of LSTM's Alistair Reid Venom Unit, Robert Harrison, said that there are over 20 species of deadly snakes in Sub-Saharan Africa and doctors often rely on the victim's description of the animal to help them decide which treatment to administer.
Faced with limited information, doctors frequently decide to give snake-bite patients broad-spectrum, or poly-specific, antivenom to cover all the possible snake species, but this is an expensive option often not available to the poorer subsistence farmers who make the bulk of victims and this method also increases the chances of serious side effects.
Currently, venom is extracted from several species before being injected in low doses into livestock, after which animals produce antibodies which are purified from the blood to create anti-venom.
Scientists hope to bring a change with this breakthrough that could save tens of thousands of lives every year.