Saving lives in Papua New Guinea

Since its establishment in 2018, the PNG Snakebite Partnership has significantly improved the management of snakebite in Papua New Guinea and saved more than 500 lives.

In an announcement coinciding with International Snakebite Awareness Day on 19 September, this unique partnership between Australia and Papua New Guinea to donate antivenoms and help save the lives of people bitten by venomous snakes and marine creatures has now been extended for a further two years, 2021-2023.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has one of the highest localised snakebite rates in the world - with snakebite mortality rates in some parts of the country three times higher than malaria or tuberculosis.1

To date, more than 500 lives have been saved in PNG over the last three years2 through improved access to the timely administration of antivenom by trained healthcare workers as a result of the PNG Snakebite Partnership.

The Partnership is a collaboration between the PNG Department of Health, the Australian High Commission and Seqirus Pty Ltd, with work managed and operated by a University of Melbourne led team at the the Charles Campbell Toxinology Laboratory in Port Moresby (a University of Melbourne collaboration with the University of PNG).

Seqirus - a wholly owned subsidiary of CSL is donating up to 600 vials of antivenom a year to PNG, with the Australian Government providing financial support to the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne to manage the distribution of the antivenom in addition to the training of healthcare workers on snakebite patient management through their team at CCTL.

CCTL Pharmacist Geno Roalakona checking antivenom stocks in Port Moresby.

CCTL is located on the University of PNG campus in Port Moresby, and is staffed by a qualified pharmacist and snakebite nurse. This team manages the distribution of antivenoms to more than 65 healthcare clinics, many in rugged and remote areas across PNG, as well as the training of healthcare workers and the collection of epidemiological data relating to snakebites and patient management.

CCTL Snakebite Nurse Andrew Maru training health workers at Gaubin rural hospital, Karkar Island, Madang province.

Key outcomes of the PNG Snakebite Partnership

Prior to the establishment of the PNG Snakebite Partnership the availability of antivenom in PNG was expensive, inconsistent and insufficient for the needs of the country.

Over the first three years since April 2018, the partnership has:

  • Saved more than 500 lives in Papua New Guinea through improved access to the timely
    administration of antivenom by trained healthcare workers
  • Distributed 1,450 vials of antivenom to >65 health facilities across 11 provinces
  • Developed and implemented a mandatory usage system and collected 1,267 patient forms
    with detailed clinical data from >28 health facilities – significantly increasing the
    epidemiological information for snakebite in PNG
  • Trained hundreds of healthcare workers with snakebite specific clinical training
  • Visited more than 65 health centres to provide snakebite management and reporting
  • Supported the Government of PNG including the PNG Medical Supplies Branch to develop
    capacity and sustainability for antivenom supply across the country.

For more information visit: Improving access to antivenom in Papua New Guinea at Seqirus.