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Chinese to work with Asean on snake bite cure research

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sieng Bunthan discusses snake bite treatments in Wuzhou city, Guanxi province, China. Niem Chheng

Chinese to work with Asean on snake bite cure research

Doctors at the Wuzhou Traditional Chinese Medical Hospital said on Saturday that it is seeking cooperation with Asean countries on research into the treatment of snake bites.

The first step was inviting doctors from the 10-nation bloc to spend three months at the hospital.

The hospital started operation in 1960 as a private facility and opened its snake bite division in 1980. It currently provides treatment, vocational training and research on snake bites, besides other diseases.

It expects to have 24 visiting doctors for its Asian Snake Bite Treatment programme. In the first group were two Cambodian doctors who have been there since September.

“We hope they will go back with the knowledge to treat Cambodian patients,” said the secretary-general of the hospital’s CPC committee Luo Shidong.

The vice-president of the hospital Wen Daiwei said 99 per cent of snake bite patients who were treated with traditional medicine at her hospital were effectively cured. She said the traditional treatment methods have been requested to be added to the UNESCO Intangible World Heritage lists.

“We want to share our knowledge with Asean countries. We have a plan to provide vocational training twice a year,” said Wen.

Snake bite expert and professor at the hospital Yu Peinan said the plants used to produce the medicine usually grow on mountains in China and in Asean countries. During a trip to Cambodia, he said he found that the plants even grew in the Angkor Wat area.

'Highly effective'

Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital doctor Sieng Bunthan was one of the two Cambodian doctors invited by the hospital.

He said he found Chinese traditional treatment effective, especially when combined with modern medicine.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Snakes in jars to be used for snake bite treatment. Niem Chheng

“This hospital has old-hand experience in Chinese traditional medicine. But the practice here goes hand in hand with modern medicine. I saw their traditional medicine as highly effective."

“It helps reduce the consumption of medicine to neutralise the venom. The traditional medicine here is used not only for snake bites but also for other diseases,” he said.

Bunthan believed that the plants for producing the medicine were available in Cambodia and that traditional treatments have been put into practice in the country, but the topic was little discussed and the methods have not been well documented.

“In our country, we haven’t talked much about traditional medicine because we don’t have clear [methods] or [standards] in using [them]. Moreover, neither medical schools nor the Ministry of Health has a curriculum for our students to study [traditional medicine].

“I believe if such traditional medicine is available, it would reduce the high costs of snake bite treatments,” said Bunthan.

The other visiting Cambodian doctor Chang Mengkhim, who is based at the Kampong Cham Referral Hospital, said snake venom poses two risks – it affects the nervous system, which makes it difficult to breathe, and it affects the blood, making bleeding unstoppable.

Mengkhim said there are six main kinds of venomous snakes in Cambodia that are known to bite people, including the monocled cobra, the king cobra and the Thai spitting cobra.

“Khmer [people] know a lot of traditional medicines, but we don’t have a clear guideline for how many grammes [of something] should be used for a particular kind of treatment."

“I appeal to Cambodians to please send all snake bite cases to the hospital and only state hospitals, where there are antidotes available, not private hospitals,” he said.

Both Cambodian doctors worry that what they learned in China would not be applicable as traditional treatments were not widely recommended.

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