Pythons could provide key ingredient for COVID-19 vaccine

This snake oil is no “snake oil.”

The invasive Burmese python has become a big problem in the US, especially in swampy states such as Florida. But when it comes to coronavirus prevention, these giant snakes may be part of the solution — thanks to their medicinal snake oil.

Reptile hunters who once sought to reduce the out-of-control python population in the Everglades are now tracking the predators for an entirely new reason — in pursuit of their abundance of squalene, a lipid produced by the body’s sebaceous glands. The substance has become a key ingredient in the manufacturing of COVID-19vaccines.

“There’s some really healing properties in the snake,” said Dusty Crum, aka the “Wildman,” according to Tampa Bay’s Fox 13. “If you go back in traditional medicine, they’ve been using python and python components for thousands of years,” he told a reporter last month.

Squalene is naturally occurring in many plants and animals, including humans, and frequently used in skin care and cosmetics already as an emollient and skin-shielding antioxidant. In terms of its medicinal applications, scientists say that squalene facilitates our immune response to get the most out of vaccines — a therapeutic additive called an adjuvant. While the ingredient is not currently listed as part of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccines, shark-derived squalene was used in at least five other potential vaccine recipes tested last year, according to World Health Organization data.

One of the most common ways we get our hands on spare squalene is via shark livers, where the oil is abundant, but concerns of overfishing have prompted researchers to look for a source elsewhere.

Enter: the invasive Burmese pythons of Florida, which have wreaked havoc on the state in recent years.

“A typical 12-foot python can make enough squalene for about 3,400 doses of vaccine,” said Daryl Thompson, spokesperson for Global Research and Discovery Group Sciences, in a statement for Fox 13.

“It’s not as much as a shark can do, but it’s much more sustainable,” added Thompson, who plans to present findings on python squalene to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, as part of last year’s government-backed vaccine research program Operation Warp Speed.

Read more at NY Post

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