Research Round-Up: Snakebites cost Sri Lanka more than $10 million per year, Traumatic brain injury in middle age linked to increased dementia risk, Global ocean health relatively stable with some local changes

Research Round-Up: Snakebites cost Sri Lanka more than $10 million per year, Traumatic brain injury in middle age linked to increased dementia risk, Global ocean health relatively stable with some local changes

Snakebites cost Sri Lanka more than $10 million per year

Snakebites are a major public health concern in many rural communities and can have a significant financial impact on both the victim and the country as a whole. A new study from PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases presents the results of a nationwide household survey conducted in Sri Lanka in 2013 to estimate the number of snakebites, deaths from snakebites and their financial cost.

The researchers found that 79 percent of snakebite victims suffered economic loss after a snakebite, since the bites often require both medical care and taking time off from paid work or other labor-intensive jobs to recover from the bite. Additionally, the researchers estimated that snakebites cost the Sri Lankan government over $10 million per year.

“It is unlikely that these costs will reduce in the near future as there is no indication that the high incidence of bites is declining,” the researchers say. “Even more concerning is the economic burden that snakebite places on victims and their households … It is highly likely in Sri Lanka that snakebite drives the same catastrophic costs for the poor as many other diseases.”


Traumatic brain injury in middle age is associated with increased dementia risk

In a new PLOS Medicine study, researchers investigated whether the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease increased after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in middle age. They identified everyone in Finland between the ages of 18 and 65 who were hospitalized with a TBI. They then examined medical records for all 40,639 patients to see if they were later hospitalized for dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The researchers found that 3.5 percent of patients who had a moderate-to-severe TBI went on to receive a diagnosis of dementia, compared to 1.6 percent of those who only had a mild TBI. There was no increase in the risk of Parkinson’s disease or ALS with TBI.

“Our results imply that in working-aged persons, moderate-to-severe TBI seems to increase the risk for developing neurodegenerative disease later in life,” the authors say. “The effect of covariates, such as comorbidities, lifestyle factors and the effect of genetics, should be accounted for in future etiological studies, as well as to improve diagnostics and prevention of dementia after TBI.”


Global ocean health relatively stable, but individual countries have seen changes

Over the past five years, global ocean health has remained relatively stable, although individual countries have seen some changes. A PLOS ONE study examined Ocean Health Index data for 220 countries over the past five years, looking for changes in biodiversity, coastal protection and clean waters, among other factors. They sought to identify drivers of any changes in ocean health and the potential effects on nearby regions and communities.

They found that global ocean health remained fairly stable over the past five years, which they expected since the health of the world’s oceans cannot change rapidly over a relatively short time period. However, there were notable changes in individual countries. For example, overall ocean health declined in many Arctic and sub-Arctic countries, possibly because rapid loss of sea ice has resulted in reduced coastal protection. The researchers suggest that improvements in wild-caught fishery management, the creation of marine protected areas, and decreases in harvesting of fish and other natural products may have stabilized ocean health in other regions.

Image Credit: Gihan Jayaweera, Wikimedia Commons

Research Articles:

Kasturiratne A, Pathmeswaran A, Wickremasinghe AR, Jayamanne SF, Dawson A, Isbister GK, et al. (2017) The socio-economic burden of snakebite in Sri LankaPLoS Negl Trop Dis 11(7): e0005647.

Raj R, Kaprio J, Korja M, Mikkonen ED, Jousilahti P, Siironen J (2017) Risk of hospitalization with neurodegenerative disease after moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury in the working-age population: A retrospective cohort study using the Finnish national health registriesPLoS Med 14(7): e1002316.

Halpern BS, Frazier M, Afflerbach J, O’Hara C, Katona S, Stewart Lowndes JS, et al. (2017) Drivers and implications of change in global ocean health over the past five years. PLoS ONE 12(7): e0178267.


Tessa is the Journal Media Manager at PLOS. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Rhetoric and Music. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter at @tessagregs.

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