Freeze-dried EchiTAb+ICP antivenom formulated with sucrose is more resistant to thermal stress than the liquid formulation stabilized with sorbitol
EchiTAb + ICP is a pan-African antivenom used for the treatment of snakebite envenomation in rural sub-Saharan African communities, where the cold chain can be difficult to maintain. To develop a formulation of EchiTAb + ICP that can be distributed and stored without refrigeration, we submitted three different formulations of EchiTAb + ICP: control (i.e. liquid antivenom formulated without stabilizer), liquid antivenom stabilized with sorbitol, and freeze-dried antivenom formulated with sucrose, to an accelerated stability study (i.e. 38 ± 2 °C and 75% relative humidity for 6 months). We analyzed changes in color, residual humidity, reconstitution time (for freeze-dried preparation), pH, osmolality, total protein concentration, antibody monomers content, turbidity, bacterial endotoxins, and pre-clinical neutralizing efficacy of the lethal effect of Echis ocellatus venom at 0, 3 and 6 months. In the control formulation, instability was evidenced by the development of a yellow coloration and an increment in aggregation and turbidity, without change in its neutralizing activity. The sorbitol-stabilized formulation did not develop marked aggregation or turbidity, but instability was evidenced by the development of yellow coloration and a drop in the neutralizing potency. The freeze-dried formulation maintained its neutralizing potency and did not show marked signs of instability, thus indicating that freeze-drying could confer EchiTAb + ICP with improved thermal stability required for distribution and storage at room temperature in sub-Saharan Africa.