What is the World Health Organization doing to increase the availability of antivenoms?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has publicly recognized the need for alternative means for generating anitvenoms and making these drugs readily available to snakebite victims worldwide, and the WHO is beginning to take steps toward achieving this goal. For example, the WHO has prioritized which species-specific antivenoms are most urgently needed. More specifically, the WHO has placed each species of poisonous snake into one of two categories. Category 1 snakes are those that are most widespread, greatest in number, and most likely to cause death or severe injury. The WHO considers production and distribution of antivenom from Category 1 snakes to be of highest medical importance.
Category 2 snakes, while still dangerous and capable of causing death or disability, are thought by the WHO to be of secondary medical importance for various reasons, including that these snakes are found in reduced numbers and in limited or remote locations, for example. This categorization effort is helpful because, until now, such data regarding poisonous snake distribution and level of threat has been sparse and difficult to interpret.
The WHO also has created an online database that describes the worldwide distribution of poisonous snakes and their available antivenoms. In the past, this information was not known, was hard to find or was ambiguous.
It is hoped by the WHO that these new resources will assist government health agencies, public health officials and health care professionals in various countries to formulate and carry out a plan for large-scale production of antivenoms that are most needed in their particular country. If the WHO is successful in reaching it's goal, there won't be anyone asking "what are antivenoms" or "why aren't they available".