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Prospect of affordable antidote

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 6, 2011) – Scientists in Papua New Guinea have developed a new low-cost snake antivenom against the poisonous Papuan Taipan.

The high cost of imported Australian antivenom makes it difficult for the government to meet demand. This has created a black market that sells stolen antivenoms, often at inflated prices.

About 750 people are bitten by the snake each year in Papua New Guinea.

Researchers from the Australian Venom Research Unit have been working with scientists from the University of Papua New Guinea and the University of Costa Rica.

The tream developed the cheap antivenom, which has the potential to be produced in PNG.

David Williams, from the Australian Venom Research Unit, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that clinical trials will start in August.

It is expected to take another two years before the antivenom can be used on humans.

"It is the very first time people in PNG have had the opportunity to change the way they deal with snake bites and not rely on western treatments," he said.

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