We are an international group of doctors, paramedics, and scientists who travel into the field to treat snakebite patients, establish clinics, train local providers, conduct clinical research, and implement public health education initiatives at all levels to save lives and limbs.
The mission of the Asclepius Snakebite Foundation is to reverse the cycle of tragic snakebite outcomes through a combination of innovative research, clinical medicine, and education-based public health initiatives. Ultimately, our goal is to create a snakebite chain of survival that reinforces positive actions and reduces the preventable death and disability that results from this neglected tropical disease. We strive to make a lasting impact, to leave things better than we found them, and to effect real change.
Our model is to employ a multidisciplinary, multi-pronged approach that addresses the issue of snakebite envenoming at all levels, from villages to hospitals to government ministries and global health organizations. Each team works simultaneously and synergistically with the other teams on a given project. Everything we do is conducted alongside local partners to ensure that they are given the training, tools, and capabilities to become leaders in snakebite treatment for their communities and help them to develop and implement a chain of survival that reinforces positive outcomes.
1. Establish snakebite centers and treat patients to break the vicious cycle of poor outcomes
We travel into the field to treat snakebite patients, bringing donations of high quality antivenom and critical medical supplies and establishing snakebite centers with local partners in areas with the highest burden of snakebites and the fewest amount of resources to address them. We live and work alongside local healthcare providers, teaching them how to assess, diagnose, and treat these patients and providing them with the tools and medicines needed to do so. Finally, we help develop these initial snakebite centers into snakebite centers of excellence that can serve as the regional referral center for serious envenomations, conduct their own community outreach, and provide training to physicians and nurses from around the country in how to better manage these complex patients. These snakebite centers become the central hub of a snakebite chain of survival that engages all levels of the population to save the life of a snakebite patient when an envenomation has occurred.
2. Conduct innovative, multidisciplinary research to identify and implement novel solutions
We conduct clinical research into new antivenoms and develop innovative new techniques to enhance the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and extended care of snakebite patients in the rural areas where 95% of cases occur. We conduct herpetological surveys, capturing the venomous snakes in a given area and then studying their venoms through cutting edge proteomics and biochemistry techniques to identify gaps in existing treatments and gain a better understanding of the correlation between venoms and the syndromes of envenomation they produce. We conduct research in the fields of sociology and psychology, traveling out to remote villages to survey the population about attitudes towards snakes, incidence of snakebites, and healthcare seeking behaviors in the aftermath of such an event. We use these findings to find ways to engage the population in addressing this problem that fit within their beliefs. We give out shoes and flashlights and train villagers in basic snakebite first aid, then study these simple public health interventions to determine the impact they can have towards reducing the overall number of envenomations. Finally, we look for strategies that enable us to engage the witchdoctors and other traditional healers to become part of the solution, rather than ostracizing them and pushing them and their patients further underground and away from the antivenom treatment they need to survive a serious snakebite.
3. Engage with the population in education-based public health initiatives
We train motorcycle taxi drivers in basic snakebite first aid and incentivize them to transport snakebite patients from remote villages to snakebite centers, reducing the delay between the envenomation and the antivenom treatment. We conduct risk assessments in areas with a high incidence of envenomations and advise those living in the area about vector control strategies they can employ to reduce the risk of encountering a snake, such as moving burn pits and scrap piles away from their houses and keeping a circle around each house that is free of debris. We work to develop basic snakebite EMS responders who can travel to villages to assess and stabilize patients for the trip back to the snakebite center. We work at the policy level to develop larger strategies with public health organizations and governments. Finally, we work to engage international stakeholders at all levels with the goal of raising the profile of snakebite and generating funding to support our efforts to address it.
In short, the Asclepius Snakebite Foundation is working on a wide range of multidisciplinary endeavors at all levels to address the complex burden of snakebite in the developing world, and we need your help.
The Asclepius Snakebite Foundation in Action
TEDx Talk by Jordan Benjamin
Take a look at this TEDx talk by our founder for more information about the complex challenge of snakebite in sub-Saharan Africa and how we are working to raise the profile of this issue and develop new strategies to save lives in the field.