Tackling The Global Problem Of Snakebite

The Global Issues in Clinical Toxinology Conference, held in Melbourne, Australia, November 2008 was the first time a scientific meeting was held to specifically consider the global issue of snakebite. This important conference involved many IST members and was attended by stakeholders from all continents (except Antarctica). A steering committee was formed to move towards solutions for envenomed patients Worldwide. It was considered that this process would best be promoted by close association with the IST, as a project under the IST banner. At the Asia-Pacific Section Congress in Vietnam in December 2008, a proposal was made by Prof. David Warrell, seconded by Prof. P Gopalakrishnakone (IST President), that “The Global Snakebite Initiative be formally endorsed as an official initiative of the IST.” This was passed unanimously and confirmed unanimously at the IST World Congress in Recife, Brazil, March 2009. This important initiative is now officially a project endorsed by the IST. The Global Snakebite Initiative (GSI) is now a formal independent organisation working globally to address the issue of snakebite. Management of the GSI is undertaken by several senior IST members and progress is reported to IST Council, but the GSI is, for logistic reasons, a separate entity to IST, though the IST and our members continue to support the goals of GSI. A major triumph for GSI was the elevation, in 2017, of snakebite to the World Health Organisation list of official Neglected Tropical Diseases. This was followed in 2018 by a resolution at the World Health Assembly to make snakebite a top category NTD and seek major funding to address snakebite issues globally. The IST is proud to acknowledge the pivotal role played by several IST members in achieving this outcome.

Global Envenoming Statistics

Envenoming and poisoning by toxins continues to be a largely neglected area within public health and medical practice globally, despite recent advances in the area of snakebite. For most types of toxin-induced-diseases (TIDs) epidemiologic data is scant, of uncertain accuracy, or even absent. There is a pressing need for more and well designed and executed epidemiologic studies of all types of TIDs globally. IST strongly encourages such epidemiologic research.

Naja kaouthia. Photo by Julian White

Clinical Toxinology

The issue of specialist-level training for medical doctors, in the field of clinical toxinology, and credentialling of such training, was canvassed at the Global Issues in Clinical Toxinology Conference and again, through presentations, at the Asia-Pacific Section Congress in Vietnam. As a result a proposal was put by Prof. Julian White, seconded by Prof. Dietrich Mebs, that “The Asia-Pacific Section of the IST supports the development of a clinical toxinology initiative by the IST.” This was passed unanimously and confirmed unanimously at the IST World Congress in Recife, Brazil, March 2009. This important initiative is now officially a project of the IST. The IST Constitution allows the IST to develop clinical toxinology at a global level. IST Council approved the constitution of the Board of Clinical Toxinology and establishment of the Board, occurred at the March 2013 IST Council meeting. Currently the major training initiative remains the Clinical Toxinology Short Course, held every 2 years and attracting an international faculty and doctors from around the World. It is anticipated this will evolve into a formal university-level Diploma of Clinical Toxinology, once resources permit.