Snakebite antivenom is manufactured by injecting horses with small quantities of snake venom, causing the horses to build up antibodies against these venoms. The horses are then bled, the blood cells are separated from the plasma, and the plasma containing the antibodies against the different venoms is then purified and this is what is known as snakebite antivenom.
Serious snakebite is best treated with the appropriate antivenom. In South Africa SAVP manufactures polyvalent snakebite antivenom for treatment of bites from the dangerous adders, cobras, mambas and ringkals. This antivenom is specific against the bites of the following snakes:
- Bitis arietans – Puff Adder
- Bitis gabonica – Gaboon Adder
- Dendroaspis angusticeps – Eastern Green Mamba
- Dendroaspis jamesonii – Jameson’s Mamba
- Dendroaspis polylepis – Black mamba
- Hemachatus haemachatus – Ringkals Spitting Cobra
- Naja annulifera – Snouted Cobra
- Naja melanoleuca – Forest Cobra
- Naja mossambica – Mozambique Spitting Cobra
- Naja nivea – Cape Cobra
The above polyvalent antivenom is not suitable in the treatment of Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) bites. Specific monovalent antivenom is available to treat bites from these snakes.
In West Africa the majority of snakebites are due to the West African Saw-scaled Viper (Echis ocelattus). SAVP manufactures a specific monovalent antivenom to treat bites from the dangerous snakes.
Antivenom is obtainable directly from the manufacturer. Tel: +27 11 386 6000.
Antivenom is best injected by trained medical personnel and must be injected in large quantities and intravenously. A snakebite kit contains only 2 ampoules and this is insufficient for treatment of a serious snakebite. You should keep 6 – 10 ampoules at hand.