Two Cambodian doctors are on a four month study trip in China’s Guangxi province’s Wizhou Hospital to research traditional Chinese remedies for snake bites.
About 10,000 people in Asia are bitten by snakes on a daily basis and throughout its 38-year history, Wizhou Hospital has spearheaded research on snake bites and alternative methods to treat them.
Dr Sieng Bunthan, of the Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, and Dr Chang Meng Khim, of the Kampong Cham provincial hospital, have been attached to Wizhou Hospital for the past three months.
Dr Meng Khim said they have another month to complete their scholarship to find ways to use herbs, roots and shrubs to treat snake bite victims.
“We have seen amazing results from this combined treatment regime as the victims recovered faster and scars were less visible – especially if the victims were bitten by a viper, krait or cobra,” Dr Meng Khim said. “Each year, during flood season, I come across up to 150 cases of snake bites at the emergency ward in Kampong Cham hospital. This is when traditional treatment may come into play while lab technicians analyse blood samples to identify the venom.”
Dr Meng Khim added that during his time in Wizhou Hospital so far, he has been able to learn how to identify plant matter and learn how to prepare it to treat victims.
“Although Chinese traditional medicine is not widely accepted or recognised around the world, we believe [traditional] method of treatment, combined with [modern] treatment, can efficiently treat snake bite victims in Wizhou,” he said. “The survival rate of snake bite victims in this hospital is almost 99 percent and this speaks volumes about how efficient combined treatment can be.”
Dr Bunthan said the four-month scholarship has broadened his views on snake bites, venoms and other possibilities of using Chinese traditional herbs to treat stroke victims.
He said in Cambodia, anti-venom is difficult to access, especially in rural areas. He said that research and study into the use of traditional herbs can play a big part in reducing fatal injuries inflicted by snakes.
“Snake bites often occur during the rainy season, particularly in provinces along the Mekong river and Tonle Sap floodplains,” Dr Bunthan said. “Despite this phenomenon, there is a lack of accurate Health Ministry data and this has made it difficult for health managers to make informed decisions required to deal with snake bites.”
Yu Peinan, a Wizhou Hospital snake expert, said although effective treatment for snake bites is available, a vast number of people are not able to access it.
“Every year, an estimated 2.7 million people are bitten by venomous snakes, resulting in death for more than 100,000 people and life-long disfigurement and disability for 400,000 more,” he said. “We need to strike back with effective usage of both [traditional and modern] scientific ways of treatment.”
“Snake bites hit the poorest of the poor: farmers who work barefoot in fields and people living in the most remote areas who have very limited access to health education and medical care,” Mr Yu added. “The total numbers of people affected are only rough estimations. Hospital records are an unreliable guide because people bitten by snakes never make it to a hospital for treatment in most parts of the world.”