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Peradeniya University awaits Health Ministry nod to launch local anti-serum

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By Ifham Nizam

Peradeniya University scientists are awaiting the Health Ministry’s go-ahead to launch the first locally manufactured anti-serum to treat snakes bites.

The University’s Head Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Pathobiology, R. P. V. J. Rajapakse, said that half a dose of the locally produced serum was sufficient to treat snake bite victims

“The preclinical tests have been completed and the level of efficacy was excellent,” he said.

He said an imported dose costs eight US dollars, whereas the local product can be made available at a more competitive price.

Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii), common Krait (Bungarus caeruleus), Hump-nosed viper (Hypnale hypnale), Cobra (Naja naja), Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) and Ceylon krait (Bungarus ceylonicus) are snakes considered “medically important” in Sri Lanka.

The most common bite is Hump-nosed viper and Ceylon krait, which are highly venomous and found only is Sri Lanka, he said.

“Usually, we import anti-serum from India. However, as they produce antivenin using Indian snakes, the toxicity and composition vary from Sri Lankan snake species venom as the Krait and Hump-nosed Viper species are not found there”, he explained.

“Therefore we decided to develop antivenin compatible with our ‘medically important’ snakes in collaboration with an Indian, WHO recommended laboratory”, he noted.

Prof. Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka can even export antivenin to other countries if a WHO recommended bio-safe plant was established under a substantial investment.

The local anti-serum was developed by the Peradeniya University under the guidance of Prof. S. A. M. Kularatne, Senior Professor of Medicine and Senior Scientist Anslem de Silva in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Science and Technology.

The government spends around Rs. 1 billion to import anti-venom serum from India, but experts have pointed out that the potency of the venom, particularly when it comes to Russell’s Viper and Hump-nosed Viper in Sri Lanka are more toxic than in India.

Medical experts say that a victim with serious bites suffer acute kidney damage and many other complications when it comes to the hypnale species.

Professors S. A. M. Kularatne, Kolitha Sellahewa, Ariyarani Ariyaratnam, Kalana Maduwage and Dr. Namal Ratnayake from the Teaching Hospital, Ratnapura, have managed several hundred cases of hypnale.

A decade ago, snake bites were a major problem with some 60,000 people falling victim annually. Only around 40,000 of the victims received treatment from hospitals, while the others resorted to traditional native snake bite treatment.

In total, 97% of snake bite deaths are caused by the cobra, Russell’s Viper and Common India Krait. Apart from them, the Sri Lankan Krait and Saw Scaled Viper are categorized as a dangerous species though they have not caused many deaths. The Merrem’s Hump-nosed Viper is considered by the Sri Lanka Medical Association as a deadly species.

However, of the land snakes only a few are ‘medically important’ or can inflict a bite, where the venom could be mild, moderate or highly venomous. It is of interest to note that to date, modern medical literature record human fatalities only due to four species of snakes – Russell’s Viper, Cobra, Kraits and the Hump-nosed Viper.

The Hump-nosed Pit Viper (Hypnale Merrem’s pit viper) is a snake widely distributed in Sri Lanka and the South Western coastal region of India.

It is the most common snake responsible for venomous snakebites in Sri Lanka, estimated to be between 22% to 77% of all snakebites (de Silva, 1981; Seneviratne, 2000). For centuries, it was considered a relatively innocuous snake until 1821, when for the first time, swelling and bleeding due to bites by H. hypnale was reported in animals (Davy, 1821)



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Southern MP warns that Russian & Ukranian tourists working here are at risk

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“They may be knifed or their lives threatened”

ECONOMYNEXT – Tourists from Russia and Ukraine who are staying in houses in Sri Lanka for long periods are engaging in business activities and should be taxed to prevent them being knifed by competitors, SLPP MP Chandima Weerakkody told parliament on Friday.

“There are many tourists who are staying long term in houses,” he said. “Though they come here they cannot use their credit cards – especially Russian and Ukrainian tourists who cannot use their money through their cards. As a result they have been forced to work and earn something in Sri Lanka.”

He called on the government to have a system where they can use their money.

“In our areas many tourists are cutting hair, some are doing tinkering work, some are setting up pizza shops, some are selling cannabis – I think there is a new name now *for ganja),” Weerakkody said. “If we send the immigration behind the tourists who are coming, even those that are coming will not come.”

“No taxes are being charged from any of these tourists who are doing business. Our (local people’s) taxes are raised. I am asking at least to have a system for the government to collect some taxes

“I want to say in Parliament that in our areas, a knifing (pihi anumak), or some other threat to life (jeewitha tharjanayak) may happen if this situation continues.”

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Kidney sale racket unearthed in Colombo

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Five duped to sell their kidneys at Rs. 15 million each

By Norman Palihawadane

The Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) has informed the Colombo Additional Magistrate Ranjindra Jayasuriya that an investigation has been launched to arrest the suspects involved in the organized racket of obtaining kidneys from poor people promising big money and selling them to local and foreign people.The CCD told the court on Thursday that four men and one woman have parted with their kidneys, and despite promising to pay Rs.15 million per kidney nothing was paid.

CCD reported to court that the victims were operated at a Hospital on Cotta Road in Borella and no money was paid. A mother who was nursing a one-and-a-half-year-old infant was among those cheated.

The police told court that a person from the Bloemendhal area had referred these people through another man and a woman. Required medical tests had been conducted at three private hospitals.

Evidence has been obtained that kidney surgeries had been performed at a private hospital in Borella and the CCD stated in court that this racket was organized targeting poor families in Colombo.

It informed court that they have already launched investigations and will arrest the suspects and produce them before court.After considering the relevant submissions, the Magistrate ordered the CCD to conduct investigations and arrest the suspects and present them to court.

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Record highest number of school students visit Parliament

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School children wave during their visit to Parliament on Thursday (1). Serjeant-at Arms Narendra Fernando said that the largest number of school students in the history of the Parliament visited the Parliament on Dec 1. Over 5,000 students from 32 schools from different provinces visited the Parliament on that day, he said. More than 25,000 students representing schools in different parts of the country had visited to observe the Parliamentary debates after the Public Gallery was reopened for school students from Sept 19.

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