It speaks volumes for the global healthcare dispensation that snakebite, an ancient scourge, had to be declared a neglected tropical disease and announce the development of a plan to deal with it by the end of 2018.

This Spotlight deals with the enormity of the problem as well the ease with which it can be tackled. Given the right investment in quality antivenoms, facilities and personnel no population need fear death and trauma from snakebite.

Indeed, a range of medicines and methods under development promise deliverance from the bite of the serpent. These include nanoparticles, adjuvant therapies, diagnostic tools to determine the species of biting snakes and lab-created monoclonal antibodies.

There is clearly a need to improve on the century-old treatment with horse-derived serum made by injecting horses with snake venom and extracting the antibodies for use on snakebite victims. While effective, horse-derived antivenom is costly to produce and carry the risk of severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock. 

India, where half of the 100,000 estimated global deaths from snakebite occur, is central to the Spotlight as a maker of traditional antivenom as well as an innovator. 

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