Snakebites: costing recombinant antivenoms

The cost of producing antivenoms from recombinant human antibodies to counter the shortage of animal-derived antisera against snakebites is not as prohibitive as you imply (Nature 537, 26–28; 2016).

We estimate that 500–2,000 kilograms of therapeutically active antibodies would be needed to produce enough antivenom to treat the 1 million or so people bitten annually by snakes in sub-Saharan Africa. On the basis of production data for monoclonal antibodies (N. Hammerschmidt et al. Biotechnol. J. 9, 766–775; 2014) and for oligoclonal antibody mixtures (S. K. Rasmussen et al. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 526, 139–145; 2012), we calculate that antivenoms created from a mixture of recombinant antibodies could be produced on this scale for US$55–65 per gram.

A typical African snakebite could therefore be treated with a pan-African recombinant-antibody antivenom for $30–150. This compares favourably with the wholesale cost of a typical dose of conventional antiserum ($60–600, which includes packaging and transport, as well as production, costs).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas H. Laustsen.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Laustsen, A. Snakebites: costing recombinant antivenoms. Nature 538, 41 (2016).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter for a daily update on COVID-19 science.
Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing