Global burden of snakebite discussed in UK's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and NTDs

News article 19 Jun 2019
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Photo credit: Anna Trelfa

LSTM’s Professor Robert Harrison has co-ordinated a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the House of Commons to look at the issue of tropical snakebite and what needs to be done to reduce its global burden.

Introduced and hosted by the APPG on Malaria and NTDs’ Chair, Jeremy Lefroy MP, the meeting objective of the meeting was to identify which sections of WHO’s snakebite-management will require support and identify opportunities to plug these gaps in the provision of effective systems to reduce the mortality and morbidity of tropical snakebite.

Professor Harrison, Head of LSTM’s Centre for Snakebite Research & Interventions (CSRI), spoke about the burden of snakebite upon communities and nations, looking at the barriers to accessing effective healthcare. He said: “The aim of the meeting is to provide as much support as possible to the WHO’s strategy to halve global mortality and morbidity rates by 2030. LSTM has been working to alleviate the plight of tropical snakebite victims for over three decades and the publication of this strategy along with funding announcements from Wellcome and DFID represent a watershed moment in the history of this previously overlooked and hidden health crisis.”

Between 83,000-138,000 people die globally every year due to snakebite, with around four times that many surviving with life changing physical disabilities or disfigurements. Professor Harrison was a member of the core working group responsible for writing the WHO’s strategy, which came just a week after the announcement of the new £80 million programme of Wellcome funding.

This was followed a week later with an announcement that LSTM will collaborate with International AIDS Vaccine Infinitive (IAVI) and other partners in a new research consortium looking at new snakebite therapies. The initiative received £9 million funding through UK's Department for International Development. 

Following these unprecedented investments into tropical snakebite, along with the strategic platform provided by the WHO, the APPG meeting reviewed the medical and societal burden posed by the issue. In addition to members of parliament also present were LSTM’s Director, Professor David Lalloo and Professor David Warrell of the University of Oxford, who presented the WHO snakebite strategy, after which there was an opportunity for discussion and questions.