Washington, Nov 4 : India has the highest number of annual snakebite-caused deaths and injuries, according to a new study.
The worldwide study revealed that snakebites and related injury or death pose an important yet neglected threat to public health.
By using the most comprehensive methods till date, the researchers estimated that at least 421,000 envenomings and 20,000 deaths from snakebites occur each year, especially in South and South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
And India scores the highest in occurring of annual envenomings and deaths-81,000, and 11,000 respectively.
In order to estimate death and injury from snakebite, Janaka de Silva (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka) and colleagues conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature, reviewed county-specific mortality data from databases maintained by United Nations organizations.
They also identified unpublished information from Ministries of Health, National Poison Centres, and snakebite experts on snakebites in countries that do not have reliable data on snakebite incidence and mortality.
After retrieving the data, the researchers enlisted information for many of the world's 227 countries, which were grouped into 21 geographical regions.
The researchers estimate that 421,000 envenomings and 20,000 deaths occur worldwide from snakebite each year.
However, they warned that these figures may be as high as 1,841,000 envenomings and 94,000 deaths, especially in areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where antivenoms are hard to obtain.
In a related Perspective article, Jean-Philippe Chippaux from the the Institut de Recherche pour le Dveloppement in La Paz, Bolivia and uninvolved in the research, argued that this study is a "preliminary but essential step in improving accessibility of anitvenoms and the treatment of snakebite."
He pointed out that the Africa faces an availability and cost difficulty to get antivenom.
And the situation could be worsened by the current global economic crisis-where the price of a vial of antivenom is the equivalent of several months of income for most rural families.
Chippaux suggested that better information on the global burden of snakebite would help understand how much antivenom needs to be produced and in what areas it needs to be distributed.
The study is published in this week's PLoS Medicine.