Mapping global vulnerability to venomous snakebites

Combining snake distributions with antivenom availability and access to quality healthcare, study reveals snakebite risk hotspots in Africa and Asia

Data resources used via GBIF : 51,952 species occurrences
Tropidolaemus subannulatus
North Philippine temple pitviper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) observed in Siburan, Malaysia by danolsen. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0).

As many as 138,000 people die from venomous snakebites every year. Primarily affecting the poor rural populations of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, snakebite is an overlooked cause of mortality also affecting livestock causing a burden on already impoverished communities.

Aiming to identify the most vulnerable populations at risk of snakebite, researchers mapped the distributions of 278 medically relevant venomous snakes, producing high resolution range maps for 179 species using GBIF-mediated occurrences. They further triangulated these data with metrics of antivenom availability, access to healthcare and efficacy of medical interventions.

While nearly seven billion people live within range of areas inhabited by snakes, the health system metric-paired data identified 166 million living in areas with at least one venomous snake and more than 3 hours from urban centres with healthcare.

Within the lowest three deciles of healthcare quality, the authors highlight Angola, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as hotspots of vulnerable populations with more than 92 million people at risk.

Link to original article

Longbottom J, Shearer FM, Devine M, Alcoba G, Chappuis F, Weiss DJ, Ray SE, Ray N, Warrell DA, Ruiz de Castañeda R, Williams DJ, Hay SI and Pigott DM (2018) Vulnerability to snakebite envenoming: a global mapping of hotspots. The Lancet. Elsevier BV 392(10148): 673–684. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(18)31224-8.