For more than 100 years, the mainstay of primary treatment for snakebite has been the administration of antivenoms. Antivenoms work by boosting our immune response after a snakebite. They are are made by immunizing donor animals such as horses or sheep with snake venoms. These animals have robust immune systems, and produce powerful antibodies that can bind to snake venom components, enabling our own immune defences to eliminate these toxins. Antivenoms are obtained by harvesting and then purifying the antibodies from plasma produced by the donor animal. Good-quality antivenoms can literally make a difference between life and death.

However, the potential of antivenom treatment to significantly contribute to effectively controlling the burden of snakebite morbidity, disability and mortality has been limited by a number of factors:

  • Poor regulatory frameworks for antivenoms, an absence of appropriate reference standards, and a lack of expertise and capacity within national drug control laboratories; read more.