Snake farming for snake bite antidote

Pranab Baul . Chattogram | Update:

There is hardly anyone who is not afraid of snakes.

However, putting this fear aside, three young men have been rearing 52 venomous snakes as part of a project at the old academic building of Chittagong Medical College Hospital to produce antivenom which can save people from snake bites. 

One of the young men, Mizanur Rahman, recently graduated from the zoology department of Chittagong University. He told Prothom Alo, “I enjoy taking care of the snakes as my (academic) subject was snakes.”

“It will be great if we can produce the antivenom,” he added.

Venomous snakes recently at the old academic building of Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Photo: Sourav DasThe five-year snake farming project was initiated by the directorate of health services after World Health Organization (WHO) sent an instructive circular to its member countries prioritising protective measures from snake bite in March 2019. 

People die every year from snake bites and the WHO considers this is the world’s biggest hidden health crisis and categorises it as a neglected tropical disease (NTD).

Assistant professor Aniruddha Ghose of the medicine department at the CMCH and also chief researcher of the snake farming project told Prothom Alo that they now have a total of 18 adult venomous snakes of four species and 34 baby snakes of monocellate cobra.

The snake farm follows all the instructions given by the WHO, said assistant professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed of CMCH and also supervisor of the snake farming project.

“Sometimes we bring the snakes out of boxes so that they can get fresh air and sunlight,” he added saying, “One of the cobras’ eggs hatched recently and 34 baby snakes are now being hand fed. This is a risky task. We feed them rats, lizards and sometimes non-venomous snakes.”

Apart from CMCH’s medicine department, the project is also supported by the zoology department of Chittagong University, Bangladesh Association for Advanced Mentor Tropical Medicine, Medicine Toxicology Society of Bangladesh and experts of Goethe University, Germany.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Imam Hossain

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