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Meta-analysis of controlled studies on immunotherapy in severe scorpion envenomation: a commentary
  1. Bernard A Foëx
  1. Correspondence to Bernard A Foëx, Emergency Department, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL, UK; bernard.foex{at}

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The WHO has recently described the management of potentially rabid mammal bites and envenomings by snakes or scorpions as ‘a global public health emergency’ ( However, as far as Western medicine is concerned, scorpion envenomation may be considered as an orphan disease. An orphan disease, as defined by MedicineNet, is ‘A disease which has not been “adopted” by the pharmaceutical industry because it provides little financial incentive for the private sector to make and market new medications to treat or prevent it.’

An orphan disease may be:

  1. A rare disease. According to US criteria, an orphan disease is one that affects fewer than 200 000 people. (There are more than 5000 such rare disorders.)

  2. A common disease that has been ignored because it is far more prevalent in developing countries than in the developed world (

The WHO report states, ‘Early administration of antivenom is highly effective, together with intensive care support in severe cases…rapid distribution of scorpion venom toxins…demands early treatment with antivenom and full cardio-respiratory support.’ The report goes on to discuss the fact that there is a massive shortfall in the production of antivenom compared with the potential need.

The recent publication of two new studies …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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