Antivenom rollout saving lives in PNG

Taipan snake antivenom is among a life-saving donation from Australia to PNG.
Camera IconTaipan snake antivenom is among a life-saving donation from Australia to PNG. Credit: AAP

A snakebite antivenom donation from Australia to Papua New Guinea is helping save hundreds of human lives a year.

PNG has one of the world's highest snakebite rates, with fatalities in some parts of the country three times higher than those lost to malaria or tuberculosis.

Antivenom producer Seqirus will donate up to 600 vials a year to PNG, and the Australian government will help fund its distribution, it was confirmed on Sunday, which is also International Snakebite Awareness Day.

"Australia is proud to be working together with our PNG and private sector partners to reduce the impact of snakebites and improve health outcomes," Australian High Commissioner to PNG Jon Philip said in a statement.

The program has been running for three years and has donated and distributed almost 1500 vials of antivenom for marine creatures and snakes, including the Papuan taipan and death adder.

The alliance also trains hundreds of healthcare workers in how to treat snakebite patients.

A laboratory in Port Moresby - a collaboration between the University of Melbourne and University of PNG - manages the storage and distribution of antivenom to more than 65 health clinics, some of which are in rugged and remote areas.

PNG Health Minister Jelta Wong welcomed the renewed partnership between the two governments, which will see the program continue for another two years until 2023.

"Snakebites continue to be a serious public health issue and the improved supply and specialist training is helping to save lives and reduce the burden of snakebites in PNG," he said.

Federal International Development Minister Zed Seselja said Australia was committed to supporting the health security of its neighbours.

"With one of the highest incidences of snakebites in the world this partnership provides critical support to improving patient outcomes in PNG," he said.

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