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the race for a universal antidote



The new initiative is welcome in the Nigerian Serpent Belt, but will not come soon enough for many.

May and June are high season for the clinic when the start of the farming season causes workers to be bitten by grass and bushes. Sometimes a dozen patients arrive every day, some even from neighboring Cameroon, almost 300 km away.

Those who reach the clinic are treated with basic antidotes that are offered for free and usually recover within a few days. But many victims prefer to stay at home relying on traditional remedies, such as rubbing the wound with bark or cutting it to "bleed" the poison.

One such case is Emmanuel Samuel, 12, who was bitten on the ground four nights ago by a carpet otter. The creature was clinging to his foot with her teeth, which meant she was likely to give a full dose of poison, but for the first 1

2 hours his grandmother treated him with garlic paste.

"Luckily, a member of our own staff happens to be living in his village, and when they found out, they told him to come right here," Dr. Muhammad as he examined Emmanuel's leg. Although the swelling has subsided, it is covered with blisters and lesions, while the remaining skin is shiny and fragile like a cling film.

"When he arrived here, he was barely able to speak," adds dr. Muhammad added. "If he had stayed home he would have died."

In 2017, the Kaltungo Clinic treated about 4,400 patients, of whom about one percent died, said Professor Abdulrazaq Habib, another medical doctor at the clinic.

] Occasionally there are also logistical problems with the delivery of antivenin. Dr. Muhummad said that a lack of more than fourteen days last fall resulted in the dismissal of several patients he suspected would later die.

Natives may also need more education about the risks of using traditional medicine: the herbal cures are useless, but people do not always listen, "he says.

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