We’ve more health issues than snakebites

Letters, Normal

The National, Tuesday 02nd April, 2013

I AM always fascinated by people in the medical field who go to developing countries to conduct research.
For example, I come from Papua New Guinea but I am working in ano­ther country that does not have many of the di­seases we see in PNG.
I am seen as a local expert on tuberculosis, malaria and snake bites, especially if you have previously worked at the
Port Moresby General Hos­pital.
Many things in medicine have changed but the knowledge of snake ve­nom have not changed much.
The anti-venom produced by CSL Australia
is too expensive for PNG for obvious reasons.
However, other deve­loping coun­tries such as India, produce their own anti-venom that is cheap.
So why can’t PNG not buy anti-venom from them?
The obvious answer is because PNG snakes are different from snakes in India.
The PNG taipan is the same as the Australian coastal taipan in venom composition.
However, one important thing that not many people are aware of is the anti-venom manufactu­ring process.
The CSL anti-venom is purer than any other anti-venom, therefore, causes less allergic reactions.
Not only are the acute reactions noticeable and treatable, but the delayed serum sickness that pa­tients develop some days
to weeks later.
Can PNG produce its own anti-venom?
The answer is no be­cause it is not commercially viable.
In my opinion, PNG
has more important health issues such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, etc, which are claiming more lives than snake­bites.

Kenny Aaron
Via email