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Florida invasive pythons could help with coronavirus vaccine

Experts say a key ingredient to vaccinating Americans against the coronavirus is deep within the Florida Everglades.
The snake is record-breaking 18-foot, 9-inch Burmese python. The largest ever captured in...
The snake is record-breaking 18-foot, 9-inch Burmese python. The largest ever captured in Florida.(Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 5:25 PM EST
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EVERGLADES CITY, Fla. (WVLT/WTSP) - Experts say a key ingredient to vaccinating Americans against the coronavirus is deep within the Florida Everglades.

What, you might ask? Invasive Burmese pythons, WTSP reports.

Daryl Thompson, Director of Scientific Initiatives at Global Research and Discover Group Sciences, said the species, which has caused devastation to the state’s native wildlife, carries an oil called squalene.

WTSP reported that it’s an ingredient used along with the vaccine to help alert the immune system to start learning to recognize the virus.

“The interesting thing about squalene it’s used as an adjuvant along with the vaccine, it essentially alerts the immune system to begin to take instructions so when it’s used with a vaccine, in layman’s terms, it primes the immune system to begin learning from the vaccine so that it can recognize COVID,” Thompson explained.

Sharks were originally the source, WTSP reported, but concerns on overfishing led scientists to look elsewhere.

“Wildman” Dusty Crum, who has appeared on shows like “Man-Eating Python and “Swamp People,” offered a solution--the everglades. WTSP reported that Crum’s “critical observations” led them to discover that the snakes contained squalene.

“It’s just amazing for a global problem that we have, that, that type of unique partnership existed right in the Everglades,” Thompson said.

Unlike concerns on the shark population, the python population in Florida is bountiful, and the state already sponsors eliminating the species in the state. It makes, Thompson said, the situation a win-win.

WTSP reported that, according to Crum, one 10-12 foot python contains enough squalene for 3,400 doses of the vaccine.

Read the full report from WTSP here.

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