Snakebite, a deadly Neglected Tropical Disease, has claimed the lives of 81,000-138,000 people annually, with 400,000 survivors facing permanent disabilities.
The most affected are rural impoverished communities in Africa and Asia, where snakebite disproportionately impacts the economically crucial 10-30-year-old demographic. However, hope shines through the efforts of the Centre for Snakebite Research and Interventions (CSRI) at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), a pioneering institution working relentlessly to combat this tropical poverty-related affliction.
Led by Professor Nicholas Casewell, CSRI has been at the forefront of research to understand the biology of snake venoms and improve the safety, efficacy, and affordability of antivenom treatment for snakebite victims. The herpetarium at LSTM proudly boasts the largest and most diverse collection of venomous snakes in the UK, including haemotoxic vipers and neurotoxic elapids commonly found in Africa.
In an exclusive interview, Edd Crittenden, LSTM’s Animal Technician and Herpetologist, shared his passion for working with animals and contributing to the world of snakebite envenoming.
What is the best part of your job?
Seeing the impact of my work and skills being translated into publications which can go onto helping steer public health decisions in countries where it matters. It’s also nice to see my handiwork in talks, I’ve got pretty good at identifying my dissection style from pictures.
What is the worst part of your job?
Removing regurgitated food from the snakes, 2-4 days of digestion in around 28c really adds a certain something to the smell. I’d like to say you get used to it…
Your proudest achievement at work was …
Either my first venom extraction or getting my NACWO certification, both at age 22! NACWO was a career goal for me and to be offered the position for the institution was a big sense of pride in my work and abilities. Venom extraction, I think that speaks for itself!
The biggest challenge facing global health is…
Access to the appropriate care facilities and medication in more remote areas, within snakebite it’s not uncommon for victims to spend hours travelling to health clinics that don’t hold the antivenom.
At work I’m always learning that…
Animals will always impress you, even if you’ve spent countless hours around them, you’ll still be learning more about them daily. My understanding of snake behaviour is constantly evolving, seeing the individual personalities, routines, and behaviour traits in animals often overlooked is always a highpoint of my career.
If I could go back 10 years and meet my former self, I’d tell them:
Not to put as much pressure on yourself to go the traditional route into academia. Experience in the right fields can be more valuable to future possibilities. You’ll always be learning more and never know it all, embrace that and keep chasing more knowledge and information that interests you.
How do you want to see the sector change in the next five years?
More collaborations in different areas of science to achieve a common goal, especially with partners that are sometimes overlooked due to lack of experience, or the institution isn’t as recognised on the international stage.
What makes you smile?
Finishing a tour of the Herpetarium with people who were terrified of the snakes before coming in and them leaving with a new sense of understanding about the animals they never had before. Doesn’t stop the fear, but the right information can do wonders to overcoming the unknown elements.
To experience the remarkable work at the herpetarium, individuals interested in a tour of LSTM’s herpertarium facility to watch a venom extraction, can contact Stacey.email@example.com to be added to a wait list and be informed of available dates. Numbers are limited.
Charity of the Year
LSTM is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2023-24. As the Liverpool Chamber’s Charity of the Year for this period, the partnership is seeking support from the business community to support prestigious scholarships for promising students from the North-West region. These scholarships will contribute to the development of future global health leaders and create lasting impacts on global health challenges. Almost 125 years ago, the Liverpool business community supported the development of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, to find out how you can get involved in our anniversary year, please contact Stacey Lavery at Stacey.Lavery@lstmed.ac.uk.