Concerns over Russell’s viper, antivenom are spreading

  • At least 10 people have died in some districts recently
  • Russel’s viper antivenom is being researched

The venomous Russell’s viper has been the name of terror in the northwestern towns of the country for several years. Russell’s viper bite now means certain death, especially in paddy areas. This snake is now found in Chandpur, Chittagong through Padma and Meghna. The breed is growing rapidly and spreading to different places.

As the number of Russell’s vipers increases, so does the number of people bitten by them. But the number of deaths is increasing due to lack of antivenom in hospitals. Even though domestically produced drugs are exported to 157 countries of the world, no domestic drug company has yet produced antivenom for poisonous snakes. Incepta Pharmaceuticals Limited imports antivenom from India and supplies it to the country. But not available at the time of need.

Four lakh people are victims of snake bites
According to the research done by the Non-Communicable Disease Control Branch (NCDC) of the Department of Health published in 2023, about four lakh three thousand people are victims of snake bites in the country every year. Among them, seven and a half thousand people have died.

Recently, farmer Hafizur Rahman Sohail died due to Russell’s viper bite under the decree of Ishwardi in Pabna district bordering Padma. Hasan Adib, a relative of the 42-year-old man, told Jago News that Sohail was rescued after being bitten by a snake in Padma Char field and was first taken to Ishwardi Upazila Health Complex. From there he was taken to Pabna Medical College Hospital. Russell’s viper antivenom has not been found anywhere. Even after visiting different hospitals, proper treatment was not available. He died without treatment.

Hasan Adeeb said, ‘We found out after enquiry, only Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (Ramek) in the northern region has antivenom. But Russell’s viper has spread in the crop fields of Kushtia, Pabna, Natore. It takes two and a half hours to take the snake bite patient from these districts to Rajshahi. Doctors said that venom should be given within 100 minutes of snake bite, i.e. 1 hour and 40 minutes. Kushtia and Pabna hospitals do not have that system either. But Pabna, Kushtia, Natore, Rajshahi, Naogaon and Meherpur are the most affected by Russell’s viper.


A few days before this incident, Shakinur Rahman Sabbir Russell, a student of Rajshahi University, died due to the bite of a viper. His classmates and friends said that Sabbir was hanging out with some friends on the bank of Padma. Russells was bitten by a viper when he was picking up the paper packet he had thrown away after eating jelly to wipe his hands again. He was immediately taken to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital but could not be saved.

So far this year, there have been reports of at least 10 deaths due to Russell’s viper bites in various districts including Rajshahi, Rajbari, Manikganj along the banks of Padma. Between March and May of this year, five people lost their lives due to the sting of poisonous Russell’s viper in the Char area of ​​Harirampur in Manikganj in the last three months.

Antivenom comes from India
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antivenoms prepared from local snakes are most effective in treating snakebite patients. Because, the nature of snakes in each country is different. Only 20 percent of the venom collected from snakes in India matches that of Bangladesh. But year after year, snakebite patients in Bangladesh are being treated with antivenom made in India.

Concerns over Russell's viper, antivenom are spreading

Research is going on to make snake venom
In order to reduce the death due to snake bites, under the non-communicable disease control program of the Department of Health, Chittagong Medical College is conducting research on the production of venom from stray snakes in the country.

Dr. Venom Research Center researcher. Abdullah Abu Saeed told Jago News, ‘We conducted a national survey on snake bites. I have seen that every year in the country about 7 thousand 500 people die from snake bites. And more than 400,000 snake bites occur in our country.’

  • Read more:
    Farmer in hospital with Russell Viper bite
    Rabi student died after being bitten by a Russell viper
    Farmer dies of Russel viper bite in Ishwardi

Dr. Abdullah Abu Saeed said, ‘The main goal of our Venom Research Center was to collect venomous snakes. Then raising them and collecting poison. At present the work of collection of snake venom is going on. Antivenom of 11 species of venomous snakes has been collected in our country. However, rapid production of antivenom is not possible. Its process is very long. Now many tests of this venom are going on. Again, many tests of this stage are not conducted in our country. Recently, some of the venom has been sent to a lab in Spain in collaboration with the WHO. We need to identify the nature of the venom.’

Types of poisonous snakes in Bangladesh
Although many snakes bite in Bangladesh, the number of non-venomous snakes is high. Common venomous snakes in the country are Elapid group (Elapids are a family of venomous snakes found in tropical and temperate regions. Its main distribution is in the Indian and Pacific Oceans). So far 61 and 325 species of this family have been known. This includes the Gokhras. Viparidae also known as Vipers or Viparids. It is one of the four families of venomous snakes found in the world. It is found worldwide except for Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Madagascar, Hawaii, and the Arctic Circle. The Viperidae group includes the Green Viper and another Russell’s Viper. These are the poisonous snakes of our country.

Russell’s viper breeding is fast

Chittagong University Zoology Department Professor Farid Ahsan told Jago News that there are about 104 species of snakes in the country. Among them, 30 species of snakes are poisonous. Russell’s viper is the most poisonous. Russell’s viper lives in dry or wet areas. But they can live equally well in water. Because they give birth to young without laying eggs, their reproduction is high. In many cases it can spread to different places through grazing.

Professor Farid Ahsan said, Russell’s viper gives birth to many babies at once. Russell’s viper was not reported in the country for many years. Russell’s viper was seen in Tanore, Rajshahi around 2011-12. After that, without being limited to Rajshahi, Padma, Yamuna passes through Meghna and goes to Chandpur. Now many are available in Manikganj. Russell’s viper moves through water bodies. Russell’s Viper is breeding fast and spreading to different places.

On the other hand, the Russell’s Viper is often not noticed by farmers as its color matches the color of the ground. He was bitten while working.


What to do in a snake bite?

Advice from the UK’s National Health Service says that any snake bite should be kept calm and prompt medical attention should be sought. The bitten part of the body should be moved as little as possible. If wearing watches or ornaments, they should be removed. If the bite area is tied with a cloth, it should be loosened, but not opened.

which cannot be done
Do not attempt to extract the venom from the snake bite by suction. Do not attempt to draw out the venom by further cutting or bleeding the bite site. Do not apply ice, heat or any kind of chemicals to the bite site. The affected person should not be left alone. A doctor should be consulted immediately.

What needs to be done

Researcher Farid Ahsan said that when low-lying areas sink during rains or monsoons, snakes take refuge in dry places from there. Awareness is much needed at this time. Farmers should wear jeans pants before entering the farmlands to avoid snake bites. Besides, it should be shaken with bamboo before entering the field. If there are snakes then they will go away. If you are bitten by a snake, you should go to the nearest hospital immediately.

Is there enough antivenom available in the country?

The antivenom available in the country is used after four types of snake bites. It does not work as well on Russell’s viper bites. Russel’s viper venom has been researched but has not been successful yet. No private pharmaceutical company in the country has made antivenom.

When asked what measures are being taken in the case of Russell’s viper attacks and death due to snake bites, Non Communicable Diseases Elimination Program (NCDC) Deputy Program Manager Nushayer Chowdhury said, ‘Snake infestation has increased. In that case we purchased 10 thousand antivenom from Incepta through Essential Drug Limited. Besides, we had 10,000 antivenoms with the cooperation of WHO. 10,000 WHO antivenoms have been supplied to various hospitals in the country. Out of 10,000 purchased, 3,000 have been given. The remaining seven thousand will be given according to demand. When the monsoon starts, the demand will increase, then I will send it.’

Stating that there is no shortage of antivenom, Nushayer Chowdhury said, ‘In many cases, hospitals are late in providing the demand. In these cases, the antivenom should be applied before or immediately after. But their eccentricities often lead to danger.’

Nushayer Chowdhury said, ‘Incepta is the only one in Bangladesh that imports antivenom from India. We are forced to buy from them.’

In this regard, Farhana Laiju, senior manager of Incepta Pharma, said, ‘The government buys antivenom by ordering from us. Besides, we also sell privately.’

Farhana Laiju said, ‘In case of Russell’s viper, treatment should be taken quickly. Besides, patients come from remote areas. It takes time for them to arrive at the hospital facility. In this case, if the antivenom is kept in the pharmacy of the nearby health institutions, the hospitals can use it if necessary.


When will I get Russell’s viper antivenom?
Dr. Venom Research Center researcher. Abdullah Abu Saeed said, although the success of antivenom has not yet been seen, we are making antibodies from the venom of Russell’s viper. We first give a certain amount of Russell’s viper venom to the chickens. Chicken eggs contain antibodies. Then collect antibodies from egg albumin. In addition, after applying venom to the body of goats, antibodies were isolated from them by collecting blood. Antibody purification is now underway. Then we will apply it to the body of mice to check how effective the antibody made in our country is. With the type of antibody we are trying to develop, Russel’s viper bites will be 100 percent treatable, whereas India’s antivenom application is failing to save Russel’s viper-bite patients.

The results of this antibody isolation and purification are possible within this year, said Dr. Abdullah Abu Saeed said, ‘Our project with antibody isolation data will be completed this year. Besides, if there is a good amount of venom in front, mapping and character separation is done, then we will go a long way in the process of making antivenom.’