TITLE : A study on the use of the Zimbabwean medicinal plant faidherbia albida (Muunga tree) root extract as an anti snake venom. INTRODUCTION
Snakebite is a global medical problem especially in the rural areas of the tropics with about 40,000 deaths each year(Warrell, 1976). The annual snakebite incidence in Zimbabwe has been estimated to be 197 per 100,000 populations, with 12.2% mortality due mainly to black mamba,cobra and puff adder (Pugh and Theakston,1980). In the recent past, studies indicate that the situation has not improved as the incidence of snakebite worldwide has been reported to be in excess of 3,000,000 per year with more than 150,000 deaths(Mustapha, 2003).. In a World Health Organisation report the incidence of snakebite is still high; with an estimated 10,000 deaths occurring every year(Mustapha,2003). The incidence of snakebite is often associated with agricultural activities with the highest at the beginning of the rainy season. The other important factor responsible for the increase in snakebite cases is flood which drives out snakes from their burrows(Warrell et al., 1977). The commonest snakes of clinical importance in Zimbabwe comprise the cobras,black mamba and puff adder. The black mamba has been reported to be a very dangerous snake and its victims are mainly farmers, hunters and herdsmen; most of who are of young productive ages (Warrell and Arnett, 1976; Mustapha 2003; Warrell et al., 1977). Herbal medicine has been used for quite sometime now, the administration of antivenom has remained the mainstay in the treatment of snake venom poisoning. The supplies of antivenoms by the various governments are very unreliable and where the products are available they are very costly(Mahanta and Mukherjee, 2001). The use of antivenoms for the treatment of snake venom poisoning is further restricted by their propensity to cause hypersensitivity reactions in sensitive patients. The inability of antivenoms to resolve the local effects of the venom is also a limiting factor(Mahanta and Mukherjee, 2001). The urgent need for the discovery of new anti-snake venom from local resources such as medicinal plants has therefore been recognized.
Faidherbia albida is used extensively in Zimbabwean traditional medicine for the treatment of various diseases. The most popular use of this plant is in the treatment of snakebites. The root bark of Faidherbia albida is used by rural people of Zimbabwe people to treat snakebite patients(Gill, 1992; Gubudu Peter, personal communication). However, this practice lacks scientific validation and therefore this type of treatment needs thorough scientific investigation. In the present study therefore an effort to validate the use of these plants in the treatment of bite by cobra, and puff adder will be attempted. Specifically, this research work will provide scientific evidence of antisnake venom properties of the root bark extract of faidherbia albida. The most effective and acceptable therapy for snakebite victims is the immediate administration of antivenom following envenomation(Mahanta and Mukherjee, 2001) . The orthodox medical treatment of snake venom poisoning so far is limited by the use of antivenom, which is prepared from animal sera. Although, the use of anti-snake venom for the treatment of snake venom poisoning is universally accepted, therapeutic benefits are limited by the problems of hypersensitivity reactions in sensitive individuals. Furthermore, the conventional anti-snake venoms have not always been able to resolve the local effects of the venom such as haemorrhage, local swelling, bacterial infections, fever, pain, and bleeding(Russell, 1977; Warrell, 1976). Another problem of antivenom is that of availability and cost of treatment. Traditional remedies from plants used in the treatment of snakebite patients have a number of potential advantages. They are not expensive, are readily available, can be grown locally, and hypersensitivity reactions to...
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