Snakebite is a Neglected Tropical Disease that annually kills over 95,000 people residing in some of the world’s most disadvantaged subsistence farming communities, and leaves 2-300,000 surviving victims with permanent physical disabilities/disfigurements. It is the rural impoverished African and Asian communities, and particularly the most economically-important and educationally-vulnerable 10-30 year olds, that suffer disproportionally high rates of snakebite mortality and morbidity. Snakebite is therefore both a consequence and cause of tropical poverty.
Throughout the 50 year history of the Unit, its objective has been to conduct a diverse portfolio of research activity to better understand the biology of snake venoms, and use this information to improve the efficacy, safety and affordability of antivenom treatment of tropical snakebite victims. The Unit and its staff, led by Dr Rob Harrison, is part of the LSTM Parasitology Department and its herpetarium hosts the largest and most diverse collection of tropical venomous snakes in UK to support its research activities.
The interlocking of the Unit’s venomous snakes with its extensive research activity is one of the main messages of our UK-unique ‘Key Topics in Snakebite’ MSc module, and a potent illustration of how UK research benefits human health in the tropics – a message we enthusiastically deliver to fulfil our frequent media requests, and that is central to our many other public engagement activities.