Snake antivenoms have been around for 125 years, are effective and can be produced cheaply at scale. Yet Africa, with its abundance of deadly snakes, has an alarming shortage of the life-saving medicine.
Experts and campaigners blame a combination of weak production capacity, feeble policy and oversight, high prices and a general lack of concern for the plight of people in poor, remote areas of the world.
The method of antivenom production has changed very little since it was first developed by French immunologist Albert Calmette in the late 19th century. It remains a painstaking, time-consuming process, although researchers are working to develop synthetic alternatives.
First, a technician has to milk a snake’s venom in a dangerous manoeuvre that sees it…