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Invasive pythons hold key ingredient for COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 20, 2021

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Dusty Crum isn’t afraid to get down and dirty to catch a python, but he says it’s all for a good cause.

“We’re standing up for the mammals, the small mammals, the rabbits, the birds, you know,” he said.

The Everglades Burmese python hunter also known as "The Wildman," says now he’s taking that protection a step further, trying to use it to save human lives, too.

“Traditional medicine has been using python and python components for natural medicine and whatnot, so I knew there was something special in the snake,” said Crum.

He recently started handing over the pythons he caught to scientist Daryl Thompson’s lab for more research. He found out the snake has squalene, a key ingredient in COVID-19 vaccines, listed as lipids or fats on the Food and Drug Administration’s website for both the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

Thompson with Global Research and Discovery Group says their current supply of squalene isn’t as vast as what the snakes could offer.

“We needed to find another source for squalene, so we do not deplete the sharks,” he said.

If scientists switch over to using Burmese pythons instead, Thompson says one 10-12 foot snake could provide enough squalene oil for about 3,400 vaccine doses.

Crum calls it a win for everybody.

“We’re saving the mammal population. We’re eliminating pythons. We’re going to help stop shark poaching, and put some pressure off the shark trade,” said Crum. “And then we have the potential to cure a lot of people and help a lot of people.”

Research is still underway, but Thompson says pharmaceutical companies have already shown interest in using squalene from pythons instead of sharks for the vaccine. so the switch could come within months.

This story was originally published by Rachel Loyd at WFTX.