Redefining snakebite envenoming as a zoonosis: disease incidence is driven by snake ecology, socioeconomics and anthropogenic impacts

11 Nov 2021

Snakebite is the only WHO-listed, not infectious neglected tropical disease (NTD), although its eco-epidemiology is similar to that of zoonotic infections: envenoming occurs after a vertebrate host contacts a human. Accordingly, snakebite risk represents the interaction between snake and human factors, but their quantification has been limited by data availability. Models of infectious disease transmission are instrumental for the mitigation of NTDs and zoonoses. Here, we represented snake-human interactions with disease transmission models to approximate geospatial estimates of snakebite incidence in Sri Lanka, a global hotspot. Snakebites and envenomings are described by the product of snake and human abundance, mirroring directly transmitted zoonoses. We found that human-snake contact rates vary according to land cover (surrogate of occupation and socioeconomic status), the impacts of humans and climate on snake abundance, and by snake species. Our findings show that redefining snakebite as zoonosis provides a mechanistic eco-epidemiological basis to understand snakebites, and the possible implications of global environmental and demographic change for the burden of snakebite.