Appraisal of antivenom production in public laboratories in Latin America during the first semester of 2020: the impact of COVID-19

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One of the 4 pillars of the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy for the prevention and control of snake bite envenomings is to ensure safe and effective pharmacotherapeutic treatments [1]. The mainstay in the pharmacotherapy of these envenomings, as well as of envenomings by scorpions and spiders, is the timely administration of safe and effective antivenoms [2,3]. Antivenoms are composed of immunoglobulins, or immunoglobulin fragments, purified from the plasma of animals, usually horses, immunized with venoms. Currently, there is an urgent need to improve antivenom availability, accessibility, and affordability on a global basis, particularly for use in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America [1]. There is a long tradition in snake, scorpion, spider, and, more recently, caterpillar antivenoms production in Latin America, especially centered in public manufacturing laboratories in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Mexico [4–6]. A network of public laboratories devoted to the production and quality control of antivenoms was established in this region in the last decade [4,5], which has recently led to the creation of the Latin American Network of Public Antivenom Manufacturing Laboratories (RELAPA, Red Latinoamericana de Laboratorios Públicos Productores de Antivenenos) [6]. RELAPA aims at consolidating governance mechanisms within a regional platform for technical cooperation, technology transfer, research, and training for the regional improvement of antivenom availability, under the coordination of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and its office Centro Panamericano de Fiebre Aftosa (Panaftosa). As part of the ongoing activities of RELAPA, a survey was sent by PAHO/Panaftosa to the institutions integrating this network to assess the situation of antivenom manufacture in these laboratories during the period January 2020 to July 2020, with the goal of analyzing in which ways has antivenom production been affected in this extraordinary year, especially regarding the impact of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has profoundly stricken Latin America [7]. The survey was sent to the directors of the institutions of RELAPA (the list of institutions is detailed in Fan and colleagues [6]). The survey included the following aspects: (a) What was the demand and the production of antivenoms (including snake, scorpion, spider, and caterpillar antivenoms) during the period January 2020 to July 2020? (b) What was the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in (i) the number of professional and technical staff working to manufacture antivenom, (ii) acquisitions of consumables and laboratory equipment, (iii) overall budget devoted to antivenom manufacture, and (iv) attention to the COVID-19 crisis in terms of development of therapeutic equine preparations against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), preparation of diagnostic reagents, quality control activities, or assignment of staff to attend other pandemic issues? (c) Which are the priorities of the laboratories in the near future regarding regional cooperation in the field of antivenom manufacture and quality control? The survey was carried out between October 1 and October 19, 2020, using the platform Qualtrics (Qualtrics XM Platform, Seattle, Washington, United States of America).
Gutiérrez JM, Zanette L, Vigilato MAN, Pompei JCA, Martins D, Fan HW. Appraisal of antivenom production in public laboratories in Latin America during the first semester of 2020: The impact of COVID-19. Plos Negl. Trop. Dis.. 2021 June;15(6):e0009469. doi:
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