BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: UK: Wales  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 12:46 GMT
Snake antidote firm looks overseas
Nigerian Carpet Viper
The Carpet Viper is very aggressive
A west Wales firm, which is developing antidotes against snakes, spiders and scorpions, is having to look for farms abroad after becoming a victim of its own success.

The pharmaceutical company uses sheep to create the drug but managers say the small size of traditional Welsh farms has limited its room to expand.

Sheep
Blood from sheep provide antibodies

Professor John Landon, of MicroPharm, said its flock of 2,000 sheep in Carmarthenshire would need to grow to keep up with demand for its products.

Under the process sheep are immunised with the venom antidote the animal then develops antibodies against the poison in its blood.

MicroPharm is now hoping to work with the Nigerian Government in order to set up a production unit for antidotes to the Nigerian Carpet Viper.

But Prof Landon said the firm was outgrowing its Welsh base.

"It is difficult on small farms in Wales, with small fields, to have very large flocks. We have 300 sheep making the carpet viper antibodies.

"We will have to get up to much larger numbers of sheep and we are currently looking at areas in New Zealand, Australia or South Africa."

The Nigerian Carpet Viper (Echis Ocellatus) is responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the country each year.

Once every month, the sheep "give blood" which is then purified giving us the anti-venom

Prof John Landon, MicroPharm

The firm has been backed by the Welsh Assembly and the Nigerian Ministry of Health.

Nigeria Health Minister Professor ABC Nwosu visited the plant in April to commission the manufacturing facility.

The Nigerian Carpet Viper's natural colouring enables it to blend in with its surroundings to devastating effect.

In the worst affected areas during the sowing and harvesting seasons, about 50% of all hospital beds will be occupied by snake-bite victims.

Many of the victims, usually children and agricultural workers, die as a result of suffering uncontrolled bleeding and paralysis.

Serum & antidote
Antidote is extracted from sheep serum

MicoPharm operates under strict Home Office guidelines, so that no harm comes to the sheep and they are well cared for.

The process of producing antidotes starts with immunising the sheep with very small amounts of a particular snake's venom, said Prof Landon.

"The sheep are immunised with a minute amount of the product, as you would with a small child, which produces antibodies.

"Once every month, the sheep "give blood" which is then purified giving us the anti-venom."


More from south west Wales
See also:

23 Apr 02 | Wales
14 Sep 00 | Africa
Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Wales stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes