In a decision public health activists are calling both landmark and long overdue, the World Health Organization has placed snakebite envenoming on its list of top 20 priority neglected tropical diseases — giving it the highest possible ranking for diseases of its kind. The move could spur new efforts in the decades-long battle to limit the global toll of snakebite, which kills more than 100,000 each year and maims and cripples millions more.
Neglected tropical diseases often affect mostly poor populations, especially people who live with poor sanitation and in close proximity to animals and insects that can spread disease. The WHO’s list includes Chagas disease, rabies, leprosy — and now snakebite. (The advisory committee also added scabies and several types of mycoses — fungal infections affecting internal organs — to the list.)