Planning a walk in the Veld this weekend?

Findings released this week from an international study claim that DNA samples taken from snake bites can positively identfy the type of snake which bit the victim.

In fact, experts found that if snake DNA could be detected on swabs taken from fang marks on victims, the species of snake could be pinpointed every time!

While the study was originally coonducted on Nepalese snakebite victims, these findings will come as reassuring news to citizens of countries like South Africa, home to a number of highly venomous snakes.

While there are no reliable numbers on global snakebite incidents being correlated, it is thought many snake bites go unreported due to lack of information.

According to Johan Marais, CEO of the African Snakebite Institute, there are between 6000 and 7000 snakebites across the Southern African region per year - of which 10 to 15% require anitvenom.

Most doctors perscribe anitvenom according to the victim's symptoms but this DNA swab could potentially negate the guesswork.

The research team is currently developing a rapid diagnostic "dip-stick" test similar to a pregnancy test that could be used to rule out certain common venomous snakes and help physicians more quickly decide the best course of treatment.

It is effective, but we have to be realistic - it is highly expensive.

Johan Marais

It is thought a simple swab test would be easy to administer in rural healthcare settings with limited resources. Accoring to Marais, the catch would then be the availability of the antivenom - distributed primarily to only a few hospitals.

Listen to Xolani's full interview with Johan Marais, CEO of the African Snakebite Institute. He shares detailed insights into the different types of venomous snakes which predominantly occur in South Africa...

Johan Marais advises that if

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