The announcement coincides with International Snakebite Awareness Day on 19 September.
PNG has one of the highest localised snakebite rates in the world - with snakebite mortality rates in some parts of the country three times higher than malaria or tuberculosis.1
However, more than 500 lives have been saved in PNG over the last three years2 through improved access to the timely administration of antivenom by trained healthcare workers as a result of the PNG Snakebite Partnership.
The partnership is an initiative of PNG’s National Department of Health, the Australian Government and Seqirus Pty Ltd. It is managed and operated by the Charles Campbell Toxinology Laboratory (CCTL) in Port Moresby (a University of Melbourne collaboration with the University of PNG).
Seqirus - a wholly owned subsidiary of CSL, is donating up to 600 vials of antivenom a year to PNG, with the Australian Government providing financial support for the management and distribution of the antivenom, in addition to the training of healthcare workers on snakebite patient management.
CCTL is located on the University of PNG campus in Port Moresby, and is staffed by a qualified pharmacist and snakebite nurse. This team manages the distribution of antivenoms to more than 65 healthcare clinics, many in rugged and remote areas across PNG, as well as the training of healthcare workers and the collection of epidemiological data relating to snakebites and patient management.
In its first three years, the partnership has2:
- Distributed 1,450 vials of Seqirus antivenoms for venomous snake and venomous marine creatures
- Trained hundreds of healthcare workers with snakebite specific clinical training
- Visited more than 65 health care centres to provide training on snakebite management and snakebite reporting
- Supported the Government of PNG including the Medical Supplies Branch to develop capacity and sustainability for antivenom supply across PNG.
Minister for Health and HIV/AIDs the Hon. Jelta Wong welcomed the news of the announcement.
“We welcome the renewal of this partnership to increase access to antivenoms in PNG. Snakebites continue to be a serious public health issue and the improved supply and specialist training is helping to save lives and reduce the burden of snakebites in PNG,” he said.
Jon Philp, Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG said he was delighted to continue Australia’s support for the project.
“Australia is proud to be working together with our PNG and private sector partners to reduce the impact of snakebites and improve health outcomes in PNG. The PNG Snakebite Partnership is improving development outcomes by upskilling healthcare workers and improving access to life-saving medicine.”
Seqirus Executive Director, Commercial Australia and New Zealand, Dani Dowell said the company was proud to support this important partnership.
“Seqirus has a long history of manufacturing antivenoms for some of the world’s deadliest creatures, and we are proud to be continuing this partnership with regular donations. Timely access to antivenom is critical in responding to snake envenomation, and we are pleased to be playing an important role in improving access to antivenoms in PNG, so that they can get the care they need.”
Snakebite Nurse and Trainer Andrew Maru described the strong impact of the partnership to-date.
“The partnership has been very significant on the ground in PNG – providing additional support and more antivenoms so that we can boost understanding of snakebite patient management and reduce the number of deaths due to snakebite. Continuation of this partnership will mean we can train more people, deliver more antivenoms and continue to improve the response to snakebite in PNG.”
Dr Andrew Watt, Co-Head Australian Venom Research Unit, The University of Melbourne, said the partnership is not just about support today, but building capacity for the future.
"Our team at the University of Melbourne are proud to support the PNG Snakebite Partnership through our training of health care workers and distributing life-saving Australian antivenoms to health centres across Papua New Guinea, including hard to get to regional and remote areas which further highlights the importance of the training we provide. The partnership is not only about saving lives today, it is also ensuring that health centres across PNG have the knowledge and medicines to save lives well into the future.”
- 1. Melbourne University website. PNG Snakebite Research Project; [cited 28 Jul 2021]. Available from: https://biomedicalsciences.unimelb.edu.au/departments/department-of-biochemistry-and-pharmacology/engage/avru/research/png-snakebite-research-project
- 2. PNG Snakebite Partnership data on file. Melbourne University. 2021.