Snakebite is one of the world’s most neglected tropical conditions. In Myanmar it is estimated there are more than 10,000 snakebites a year resulting in approximately 500 deaths. This places significant strain on the Myanmar health system, as patient treatment is often drawn out without access to effective antivenom.
As most of Myanmar’s workforce is rural-based, the group most likely to be bitten, the human cost can be catastrophic at a family level. The loss or permanent incapacitation of a person directly involved in food production to sustain the family is devastating.
In 2014/15, the University of Adelaide received A$2.3 million in Australian Government funding for a three-year project to help improve the management of snakebite patients in Myanmar. Seqirus is among a group of collaborators to help improve the quality, quantity and availability of antivenom.
Production and collection from equines of hyperimmune blood to snake-venom antibodies is an efficient and effective approach for developing antivenoms. Seqirus has over 80 years’ experience utilising this approach. In its second year, with the in-kind support from Seqirus’s chief veterinarian, the equine (horse) mortality rate for 2015/16 had been reduced by over 50% from the prior year. The significant reduction in mortality is largely due to improved disease monitoring, plasma extraction improvements and animal husbandry practices, which includes enhanced animal selection criteria, health screening and pasturing/feeding methods.
Visits from Seqirus personnel to Myanmar and vice versa continue as the program seeks further improvements to the quality, quantity and availability of antivenom in Myanmar.