SA shielded from anti-venom crisis

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South Africa should be shielded from a potential snake venom shortage in the rest of Africa once the last supplies of an all-purpose anti-venom made in France expire, reports the Independent on Saturday.

Megan Saffer, MD of South African Vaccine Producers, said in the report that the company was still producing anti-venom and “we have the capacity to increase production if required.”

The report said alarm bells rang following an article in The Daily Maverick, as seen in MedicalBrief, warning that all remaining stocks of the all-purpose FAV-Afrique would expire at the end of June and no one was making any new supplies.

Mike Perry, whose Gauteng business, African Reptiles and Venom, keeps 600 venomous snakes, which are milked for their venom, said FAV-Afrique was used mainly in the French regions of west Africa.

“The reason the French stopped producing it was that in around 2000 a company in India started copying the French product,’ he is quoted in the report as saying. “They contacted me, asking me to supply venom from the saw-scaled viper, which causes most bites and deaths in West Africa but I said it would be too expensive. They then decided to use venom from Indian snakes, which was useless as an anti-venom.

“The death rate went up from 1% of bites to 12% to 15%.”

Saffer said the South African Vaccine Producers had always supplied the Africa market, adding that there was “no reason for alarm.”

The report said she was unable to offer statistics on the demand. “Snake bite is not a notifiable condition, hence accurate statistics are not available,” she said.

The report quoted local snake catcher Jason Arnold as saying that anti-venom was generally available bur sometimes not at the medical facilities where people with snake bite wounds were treated.

Independent on Saturday report not available online

Full Daily Maverick report

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