In India, every year around 50,000 people die from snakebites, which is more than half of the number of people who die from snakebites all over the world. According to the World Health Organisation, poisoning by snakebite is a “neglected tropical disease.” Experts say because it is a “poor man’s disease,” its treatment does not attract attention, resulting in inefficient treatment approaches, causing severe side effects to patients.
In one of the treatment approaches when the species of the snake that bit the patient is not known, a polyvalent antivenom — made from mixing venoms from multiple snake species endemic to the area — is injected into the patient. This high-risk treatment has severe side effects, but on the other hand, knowing the species of the snake from the bite is often not possible. Now, a Thiruvananthapuram-based startup has developed a biosensor device that can diagnose the patient’s blood and tell the species of the snake and the envenomation status. The biosensors in the glucometer-like device ‘V-sens,’ detect three things — if the snake bite is venomous, the species of the snake, and the amount of venom in the blood.
According to Dileepkumar R, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the startup, the new technique aims to replace the old polyvalent technique with a monovalent technique, which will effectively reduce the severe side effects. The polyvalent strategy “is counterproductive as the patient is exposed to three other anti-venom which are wholly unnecessary, leading to complications and side effects,” Dileepkumar told Indian Express.
The new technique was developed by Anaswara Krishnan S, Dileepkumar, and other researchers at the startup incubated at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram. Other than the diagnostic device, the startup is also working on developing a rapid kit for the snakebites.
The startup is also known for developing a mobile app ‘Snake Hub’ to create awareness about snakebites among the masses. The app provides a range of information from the biology of snakes to how to identify snakebites and provide first aid to snakebite victims.