Science of Snakes
How one academic institute is on the cutting edge of science in Costa Rica
By Sophia Klempner
Snake bite? Have no fear. Each year Costa Rica’s Clodomiro Picado Institute saves on average 600 lives that might otherwise have been lost to attacks. Tucked in the foothills of northeastern San Jose, this powerhouse of an academic organization churns out 100,000 vials of anti-venom annually for export to 12 countries, while simultaneously supplying demand in Costa Rica.
Here, University of Costa Rica students raise snakes and develop their theses under the tutelage of the nation’s most experienced chemists and microbiologists. Current researcher José María Gutiérrez, who won an International Foundation for Science prize in 1997, has authored several of the center’s 500+ published scientific articles.
Not only does the award-winning institute provide polyvalent viper anti-venom and anti-coral treatment to zoos across Central America, Europe and the U.S., but it also has plans underway to produce remedies for Africa, Sri Lanka and Papau New Guinea. The Clodomiro Picado Institute does its job cheaper – and better – than private labs, according to Director Yamileth Angulo, a microbiologist.
As their research expands into African bees, South American scorpions, and, most recently, the production of human albumin and immunoglobulin for complex medical procedures, the modest staff of 60 stays busy. Last year alone the institute's two community educators gave nearly 50 workshops to a range of groups and businesses throughout Costa Rica to help prevent snakebites.
Avoiding Snake Bites:
Treating Snake Bites:
- Watch your step and look before grabbing railings or trees
- Use a certified guide when exploring the rainforest, especially at night
- Wear boots for hikes
- Seek the closest medical care facility: local Red Cross clinics are prepared!
- Keep the bite victim as calm, hydrated and still as possible