Abstract— Snake bite envenomation has long been recognized as a serious health issue but has recently been elevated to the status of a ‘category A neglected tropical disease’ by the World Health Organization (WHO). The severity of the problem stems from a mixture of financial and geographical issues: lack of knowledge on snake distributions, limited recent improvements of antivenoms, lacking quality controls, low profitability of antivenom production, difficulties in distribution to rural snake bite hotspots, and inaffordability for the majority of the >2 million annual victims in the developing world. Future shifts in snake distributions with climate change may be exacerbated the issue if human exposure increases. This study fills this knowledge gap by (i) creating high resolution Maxent distribution models for all snake species listed as medically relevant by the WHO globally and thereby improving on the current expert derived range estimates, and (ii) predicting how these distributions – and hotspots in venomous snake species richness – are likely to shift with climate change by 2050. This lays the crucial foundation for (iii) research on geographic variation in venom composition, (iv) development of adequate polyvalent antivenoms for each venom ‘region’, and (v) directing medical resources to the right areas. These steps greatly improve our capacity to inform snake bite management. However, it will take global collaborative initiatives between researchers, governments, charities and NGOs to address the remaining links in the issue chain.
Keywords—antivenom efficacy, climate change, geographic variation, snake distributions.
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