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Bites: Snakebite has a long tail

1 Mar, 2012
Russell's viper

Russell's viper

In Sri Lanka, about 40,000 people are taken to hospital with snakebite every year. Of 92 species of snake in Sri Lanka, six are medically important, including the Russell’s viper (pictured). Most studies of snakebite concentrate on the numbers of bites, deaths and any complications between the patient being bitten and their recovery, which might take a few days. But Wellcome Trust-funded research in Sri Lanka has started to examine the longer-term health effects of snakebite.

In a paper published last summer, authors from the South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration (funded mainly by the Wellcome Trust and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council) revealed that people who had been bitten by a snake were significantly more likely than unbitten people to be suffering problems including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder one to four years later.

Snakebite is sudden, shocking and life-threatening. Little wonder that it can lead to serious psychological problems. It is particularly important given that most snakebite victims in Sri Lanka are often of working age, supporting families. When snakebite leads to overwhelming fear of it happening again, it can have repercussions on several lives.


Williams SS, Wijesinghe CA, Jayamanne SF, Buckley NA, Dawson AH, Lalloo DG, & de Silva HJ (2011). Delayed psychological morbidity associated with snakebite envenoming. PLoS neglected tropical diseases, 5 (8) PMID: 21829741

Image credit:  utahmatz on Flickr (‘Russel’s viper, fang detail’)
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