Snake held at reptile zoo helps with COVID research

Published: Sep. 4, 2021 at 2:24 PM EDT
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SLADE, Ky. (WKYT) - A snake located at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo’s venom could be used to treat COVID. The Jararacacussu is one of the largest venomous snakes in South America, and now it could help in the fight against Covid-19.

“They were using a cell culture from some monkey species. In that cell culture, it prohibited growth of the Covid virus. So it actually attaches on the virus and stops it from growing,” said Kristen Wiley, Co-director of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo.

Wiley says the snake’s venom is an exciting find. Because of their partnership with the Brazilian institute conducting the study, they have the same species at their facility.

“It’s really cool and definitely a sign of hope, I would say. But it also isn’t necessarily something that could end up being a drug,” Wiley said.

The process for making, creating, testing, and administering drugs is lengthy, but it does give researchers some hope.

“If it turns out to be something that is potentially useful, than that enzyme would be made synthetically. We wouldn’t be... like no one would be going out and collecting hoards of snakes.” Wiley said.

Of course, collecting venomous snakes is dangerous, so it’s good there is an alternative way to harvest the enzymes.

“This is a great example of why it’s important to protect all species because there is no way to know till you are researching which ones can be potentially beneficial to humans,” Wiley said.

The South American Institute will continue to study the snake and its venom.

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