A polyspecific Pan-African antivenom has been produced from the plasma of horses immunized with a mixture of the venoms of Echis ocellatus, Bitis arietans and Naja nigricollis, the three most medically important snakes in sub- Saharan Africa. The antivenom is a whole IgG preparation, obtained by caprylic acid precipitation of non-IgG plasma proteins. The antivenom effectively neutralizes the most important toxic activities of the three venoms used in the immunization in stan- dard assays involving preincubation of venom and antivenom before testing. This antivenom compares favourably with other antivenoms designed for use in Africa with respect to neutralization of the toxins present in the venom of E. ocellatus. Caprylic acid fractionation of horse hyperimmune plasma is a simple, convenient and cheap protocol for the manufacture of high quality whole IgG antivenoms. It constitutes a potentially valuable technology for the alleviation of the critical shortage of antivenom in Africa.
Snake antivenom immunoglobulins (antivenoms) are the only specific treatment for envenoming by snakebites. Antivenoms can prevent or reverse most of the snakebite envenomings effects, and play a crucial role in minimizing mortality and morbidity. These preparations are included in the WHO List of Essential Medicines and should be part of any primary health care package where snakebites occur. Currently, there is an urgent need to ensure availability of safe, effective and affordable antivenoms, particularly to those in developing countries and to improve the regulatory control over the manufacture, import and sale of antivenoms.