By MALUM NALU
The Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU)-University of PNG (UPNG) Snakebite Research Project has set up a new snakebite treatment unit in the emergency department of Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH), as well as a new clinical laboratory at the School of Medicine.
Equipment at both the unit and the laboratory are state-of-the-art, as part of preparations for the clinical trial of the new Papuan Taipan anti-venom, which is expected to start in May this year and go on for the next three years.
The laboratory is called the “Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre” (CCTC) in recognition of the achievements of PNG’s first clinical toxinologist, Associate Professor, Dr Charles Haxton Campbell, who studied snakebite at the PMGH while employed there between 1956-1965, and who maintained his interest in the subject long after leaving PNG.
|Laboratory manager, Owen Paiva (rear) and UPNG honours student, Julius Jacobs (front) working in the new Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre clinical research laboratory at the University of PNG School of Medicine & Health Sciences.|
Campbell is well remembered in PNG as a dedicated and caring doctor with an inquiring mind and passion for snake bite.
After departing from PNG he became Associate Professor of Tropical Medicine at the University of Sydney (1966-75) and then staff specialist at the Alice Springs Hospital (1975-86).
He currently resides in Sydney.
“The laboratory has been established as a result of the collaboration between the UPNG and the University of Melbourne (UoM) who have, since 2007, partnered in a memorandum of agreement to undertake a programme of structured research into the problems of snake bites in Papua New Guinea ,” said project coordinator David Williams.
“Researchers from UPNG’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) and the UoM’s AVRU are focused on translational clinical and epidemiological research that can improve the treatment of snake bite in PNG, and a number of projects have been carried out in the fields of clinical toxinology, epidemiology, health worker training and anti-venom research.
“The new laboratory adds much needs research space to complement our existing standalone serpentarium located at the SMHS campus where a number of venomous snakes are maintained for use in research.”
Williams said the major project being undertaken was the Phase I and Phase II clinical trials of the new Papuan Taipan anti-venom, which was produced in collaboration with the Instituto Clodomiro Picado at the Universidad de Costa Rica in San José, Costa Rica.
Work on the pre-clinical testing of the new anti-venom was published in 2011 in the prestigious journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, and after obtaining ethics approvals, clearance has been given to commence formal human clinical studies with the new anti-venom at PMGH’s emergency department.
“The project will take three years and will involve up to 380 snakebite patients, who will be treated by PMGH doctors and nurses according to a carefully-designed protocol approved by all of the various ethics committees,” Williams said.