Every year, more than 50,000 people in India die of snakebite, according to WHO estimates. For long, it has been thought that only four species are responsible —the Indian cobra, the common krait, Russell’s viper and the saw-scaled viper. Now, a new study adds a fifth poisonous snake to the list—the hump-nosed pit viper, which is often mistakenly identified as the saw-scaled viper. Based on this finding, researchers Ian Simpson and Robert Norris argue in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine that the whole culture of manufacturing antivenom in India needs to be re-looked at.
Currently, antivenoms in India are produced by seven manufacturers, and only cover the Big 4. It has been impossible, to date, to convince them to produce new antivenoms against new and dangerous species. Simpson and Norris advocate that snake venom manufacturers in India should instead follow the WHO methodology for identifying snakes whose bites are fatal.