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Snakebite - A neglected tropical disease

Snake bites are a significant problem in the tropics and subtropics for the population engaged in agriculture and livestock farming in Tanzania. According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 2018, about 130,000 people die annually from the effects of snake bites, and approximately 400,000 people suffer permanent disabilities after a snake bite. This not only causes substantial economic damage to the tropical countries but can also ruin families and destroy lives.

However, with today's medical advancements, treating a snake bite is very feasible. The only causal treatment for a snake bite is the administration of a so-called "antivenom." This antidote is effective against one or several snake species. Its production is highly complex and expensive, and only a few pharmaceutical companies are capable of manufacturing such a medication.

This results in a chronic shortage of this "antivenom" in sub-Saharan Africa, leading to even higher costs for people who often do not have health insurance.


Meserani Snake Park Medical Clinic

The Meserani Snake Park Clinic is a small clinic attached to the eponymous Snake Park. The clinic specifically treats snake bites caused by the various types of snakes found in the savannah landscape. The clinic is financed through the revenues of the Maasai Museum located on the same premises, as well as through donations. This allows for the provision of free care, which is particularly vital for the impoverished rural population. In Tanzania, due to the poor living conditions, snake bites still pose a significant threat to the rural population.



The provision of antivenom for snake bites plays a decisive role, depending on the type of snake, in whether the patient survives or not. Due to changing climatic conditions and increased awareness of the clinic, the Meserani Snake Park is no longer able to offer antivenom without support. Additionally, the treatment protocols are already 30 years old and urgently needed to be revised to ensure patient care according to current research standards.

© Pflaster für Tansania e.V. 2024


Spitting Cobra

The spitting cobra, as its name suggests, uses spitting as a defense mechanism in addition to biting itself. The snake specifically aims for the eyes of its attacker, as contact with the venom on the skin does not cause damage. However, if the venom enters the eye, it immediately causes pain, which can be accompanied by edema, meningitis, and strong sensitivity to light. The treatment consists of intensive rinsing of the eyes, as well as the possible administration of cycloplegics and mydriatics. The administration of antivenom is even contraindicated. If the affected person is not treated or is treated inadequately, it can lead to infections in the eye, as well as necrosis up to the loss of vision.

Black Mamba

The venom of the Black Mamba takes effect within just a few minutes and can lead to the collapse of the cardiovascular system in severe cases. Additionally, the venom of this snake causes respiratory failure and death. Without medical care, the snake bite usually ends fatally. An appropriate antiserum is crucial for survival chances. The Black Mamba is the most dangerous snake in Tanzania.


Even a relatively small amount of venom from the Boomslang has an extreme effect. The venom acts as an anticoagulant, causing the patient to bleed from the bite site, as well as potentially suffer from internal bleeding. Without the administration of an effective antivenom, a Boomslang bite usually ends fatally.

Puff Adder

The Puff Adder is responsible for most of the dangerous snake bites in Africa. With its long fangs, it can destroy the tissue of its victims, leading to immense bleeding and necrosis. Often, the attacks occur while working in the fields or when children are playing on the ground outdoors. Jonas had the opportunity to accompany a case where a toddler had put a Puff Adder in their mouth while playing. After adequate treatment with antivenom, the child was able to leave the hospital after weeks.

How does Pflaster für Tansania e.V. help?

At the Meserani Snake Park Clinic, both adults and children who have been bitten by any of the snake species found there are treated. The administration of antivenom (antivenin) is not always advisable. The operator of the park and clinic, Lynn, has set a goal to provide treatment and antivenom free of charge. Since this is a very expensive endeavor, the staff of the Snake Park relies on international support.

Additionally, we collaborate with experts from various international organizations to improve treatment algorithms, making patient care even more effective. We provide the Meserani Snake Park Clinic with urgently needed medical equipment, including an ECG, a blood gas analyzer, and ventilators, and train the staff. This enables monitoring of critically ill patients and prevents complications.

We are committed to making the treatment of snake bites in Tanzania free of charge. To this end, we are in contact with governmental and non-governmental institutions. Moreover, we train medical professionals in the treatment of snake bites. As part of preventive medicine, we work with various organizations involved in educating about snakes in local communities. Since children are particularly at risk from snake bites, it is important to reach them especially in schools and educational institutions to inform about the importance of snakes in the ecosystem as well as the danger posed by snake bites.

In cooperation with STELP e.V., we provide urgently needed medications and offer medical care to the rural population at the Meserani Snake Park Clinic. The entire service is free of charge, and all people seeking help at the Meserani Snake Park Clinic are treated regardless of their financial situation.

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