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Lifesaving antivenom partnership extended

Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s partnership to donate antivenoms and save lives from venomous snake and marine creature bites has been extended for another three years till 2027.

Spearheaded by the Australian Government, PNG’s National Department of Health, and CSL Seqirus, it will now be extended to include St John Ambulance PNG. This extension will see CSL Seqirus donate 600 vials of Australian-made antivenom to PNG annually, more than tripling the supply available before the partnership began.

The funding enables St John Ambulance PNG to distribute antivenoms to over 70 healthcare clinics, train healthcare workers in snakebite management, and collect data to improve snakebite care in PNG.

Since the partnership’s launch in 2018, it has saved over 2,000 lives through providing timely antivenom access, which involved donating almost 3,000 vials of CSL Seqirus antivenoms, training over 1,500 healthcare workers in snakebite clinical care, providing snakebite management training at more than 70 healthcare centres and supporting the PNG Government in developing sustainable antivenom supply capacity.

CSL Seqirus, the sole manufacturer of antivenoms for native creatures in Australia has been producing antivenoms since 1930.

ANZ Medical Director for Vaccines and Biosecurity at CSL Seqirus, Dr. Jules Bayliss, highlighted the importance of the partnership in improving snakebite patient care.

“Timely access to antivenom is critical in responding to snake envenomation. We are proud to continue our partnership with the Australian Government and improve access to antivenoms in PNG, ensuring doctors and nurses can deliver the best patient care,” said Bayliss.

Snakebite accounts for 60 per cent of all ventilator bed-days in the Port Moresby General Hospital ICU. Before the partnership, over 1,000 snakebite deaths occurred annually in PNG, nearly half involving children.

Historically, Australia and PNG share many venomous species given their land connection and shared waters. PNG has one of the highest snakebite rates globally, with mortality rates in some regions three times higher than those from malaria or tuberculosis.

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