Mumbai: India’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), which was set up by the department of biotechnology, on Saturday said it has decided to start research into the development of animal-free antivenins for venomous snake bites, which are currently treated in India with drugs made from horse blood.
BIRAC’s announ-cement came after the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) found truth in the allegations of rampant abuse of sick and malnourished horses at stables earmarked to supply blood for making the antivenins.
The inspection team, comprising a veterinarian, scientist and a representative of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), visited various stables in the last week of October and found that horses used for blood harvesting were in a bad state.
PETA’s science policy adviser, Dr Dipti M. Kapoor, said that, to produce antivenin, private manufacturers inject herds of company-owned horses with increasingly larger doses of up to four different venoms at the same time. “We have observed that lots of horses were tortured for extracting antivenin, and there was exploitation,” she said.
She added that horses were mistreated for the extraction of blood intended for producing antivenin.
Similar allegations were made by AWBI, after which BIRAC conducted a series of meetings with committees comprising members of various government departments.
Officials said that after the meetings a demand was raised for the production of recombinant anti-venom, which can be made in a laboratory without using horses, and to suffice the need in case it is required, more will be procured from foreign countries.
A government official from the department, said, “We have given an assertive nod for not using horses for the derivation of antivenin. In case we require more, we will procure it from foreign countries. The plans will take time for further implementation.”
Stating that antivenins are derived from horses’ blood as they have a higher tolerance to snake poison, Dr J.C. Khanna, secretary and in-charge, BSPCA animal Hospital, said, “The poison is introduced to the horses in incremental amounts. Then, as the horses’ white blood cells create anti-bodies, they become immune to it.”
Date : 13 November 2017