I can't count the number of times I've heard this little pearl of wisdom regurgitated by the uninformed whenever I try to save a snake or when I tell them I keep snakes.
Here's an interesting list for anyone who thinks snakes have no place in the world:
High blood pressure
Congestive heart failure
What do all these diseases/conditions have to do with snakes? Venom from some of the deadliest snakes in the world is being used to treat some of the deadliest diseases in the world! Every illness on the above list is either currently being treated by compounds derived from snake venom or undergoing studies that may yield new medications. For example:
Controstatin, a compound found in the venom of the Southern copperhead has been shown to reduce breast cancer tumors by up to 70%.
Eptifibatide (Integrilin®) prevents blood clotting during heart attacks and certain cardiac procedures. It is derived from a protein found in the venom of the pygmy rattlesnake.
Viperinex (Ancrod), from the Malaysian pit viper, is being studied as an option in treating stroke victims.
Parkinson's and Alzheimer's may be treated with compounds derived from the venom of certain cobras.
Leukemia and certain cancers? Also may be treated courtesy of the much maligned cobra.
Captopril, a drug for treating high blood pressure, comes from the venom of the South American Jararaca.
Tycotoxin acts as a calcium channel blocker that may be useful in treating heart disease. It comes from the most venomous land snake in the world: the Taipan from Australia.
Snakes aren't the only living things whose venom or poison is being used to save lives. A number of insects, arachnids, fish and plants have proven to contain highly toxic substances from which lifesaving drugs can be derived. Everything in nature has a purpose, whether it's immediately apparent or not. I find that fascinating!
So the next time you or someone you love takes a pill that treats one of the diseases above, you might owe your life to a deadly snake, spider or flower.