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A man who became immune to snake venom (theguardian.com)
74 points by pmoriarty 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments



I came to this article to read about snakes, not about an old romance.

Edit: OMG, even the original article is titled poorly with some clickbait.


The interesting bit is in the final few paragraphs. I too was hoping for more on the medical research.


I came here to make the same comment.


The symbol for medicine is ONE snake: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_of_Asclepius

The symbol of commerce is TWO snakes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caduceus

It's likely accidental that some organisations use the Caduceus thinking that it is the rod of Asclepius, but I personally see it as symbolic of itself: some health organisations are indeed focused on health, others on commerce.

Either way, it's always a good idea to at least make a basic attempt at knowing the history and meaning of the symbol you're employing.


Heh, it looks like Australia is the one of the confused[0]. But I'm sure I've seen more ambulances with Caduceus around Europe.

0. http://www.111emergency.co.nz/AMBULANCE/World-Aus/6x2.jpg


I think that fight has long been lost in North America... and at a certain point it no longer matters what the meaning was, because what it means now is...

Although the history is interesting and I wish godspeed to the purists.

Although, maybe in the U.S. healthcare is often viewed as a form of commerce by so many, it is being used appropriately after all.


In the last few days I've seen two Eastern Brown snakes within 30 metres of my house. My neighbor has, in the past month, seen a Tiger, Brown, two Blacks, and a death adder within 50 metres of theirs.

We're both about a half hour from the nearest place that keeps anti-venom, assuming we could drive that distance after a bite.

Any advances on this front would be huge for so many people - from cheaper, coverage for more species, immunisation, longer shelf life, self service (epi pen style) etc.

Hippie romances... not so interesting though.


If you have local Death Adders, I'm guessing you're in Australia. That being the case, and since there are so many venomous animals in that part of the world, shouldn't you have an anti-venom kit on hand at all times kind of like most people have fire extinguishers and first aid kits?


I live acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane. We see these snakes semi regularly. Its a fairly low risk. Something like 70/80% of bites happen when someone is trying to catch/kill the snake. Browns and Taipans are the ones I'm afraid of, the rest are unlikely to kill you.

What we do is keep compression bandages ready. Other than anti-venom, which I believe is expensive and has a 5 year shelf life if refrigerated, this is the next best thing you can do. I know of some people at very remote properties keep antivenom but they are many hours from a hospital.

Here's a naughty python I had to get out of the chicken coop 2 weeks ago: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FS1oVoxdW4hXTnsx1


Yes - about 200km north west of Sydney. At least we don't see taipans.

And... possibly. But my understanding is they're expensive / in short supply, require careful environmental control (though a fridge probably cuts it) and they have a relatively short shelf life.

Plus in many cases, people most at risk are a good way from cool storage.

I think there's also a need in some - but thankfully not all cases now - to identify the species via swab & test. If you get bit, you probably know the type that bit you, but it's not guaranteed.


Perfect use case for a long range drone.


About 50% or more of cases don’t actually result in envenomation, so you would be wasting expensive antivenom that comes itself with severe side effects.

Death adders and tipans will end your life rapidly but browns, blacks and the rest you should have enough time to get to hospital. When someone turns up in ED we need to make sure they are envenomated before administering the antidote.

Further, everything in health is decided by economics. There are 550 snake bites in Australia (approx) with around 2 deaths a year.

Antivenom costs around $5-10k per hit. Economics of making it ‘more’ available don’t really add up, and we do a pretty damn good with current availability


Not even all regional hospitals are stocking antivenom anymore :(

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-30/snake-bite-deaths-coul...


if you don't step on a snake by mistake, you have very little chance to get bit... it's not like they go out and hunt humans... I've seen rattle snakes (2) and a coral snake in the wild and I had to be very careful not to scare them away just to take a picture.


FYI: Snake advice in most places in the world doesn't translate to advice that should be taken in Australia. I.e. if you cross paths with a Tiger Snake - particularly if it's shedding or in breeding season - it will probably chase you down.


AFAIK this idea is not necessarily substantiated by reality.

The breeding/shedding thing is a myth: www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=4750

And the supposed general aggression of Tiger snakes is a popular cultural exaggeration. They do prefer to retreat. They're supposedly only aggressive if cornered or attacked first: https://australianmuseum.net.au/tiger-snake

Personally, of venomous snakes, I've only ever seen Browns and Blacks, both always decided, with extreme urgency, to run away.

I once saw a couple of cunts swatting at a juvenile brown with a water bottle. Given that people will be stupid, and yet only a few die a year from snakes, I think you can safely worry about more serious threats to your life: like sugar, bankers, or politicians.


Hmm, I know anecdotes aren't necessarily warranted here, but I have caught plenty of them to relocate out of my yards in the past. They can be extremely aggressive if they're shedding or breeding. Otherwise like any animal they do tend to try and get out of your way.

I was more commenting on OP, in some advice against trying to pose for a photo with one :P


Agreed on regional advice variations. My understanding is if you see a snake, you stop, and wait - it'll likely go away (if it's noticed you) or keep going the way it was going (if it hasn't).

We've unknowingly stepped over death adders before, and only noticed when we went back the same way. They're the fastest striking snake on the planet, and do themselves no favours by staying very still (they're ambush predators) despite large humans stomping around near them -- but I gather strikes are relatively rare.

Never actually seen a Tiger snake - my neighbour saw it near their pool, but it's very late summer, and while they're poikilothermic, I doubt they feel especially energetic or antagonistic in 40C heat. Anyway, apparently it hid in the grass, then wandered off when the humans got too close (they thought they'd seen something there while gardening, but weren't sure -- they were not looking for the snake).


When I was a kid mowing the lawn, which was adjacent to a thinly-forested area, I ran over rattlesnakes at least half a dozen times... in those cases, if I hadn't been mowing, I definitely would have just stepped on it. I don't think it's too unlikely that people could stumble over a snake in grass while just playing around outside.


Bill Haast had also developed immunity to snake venom:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Haast


Wow, lived to about 101 years old. I know its just one piece of evidence but I can't help but think it's the venom.


Such a technique of consuming minute amounts of poison over a course of time to gain immunity to the venom is also described in Chanakya's ArthaShastra. Chanakya was the prime minister in the Indian emperor Chandragupta Maurya's Magadha kingdom. This was around 300 BC. In order to develop espionage capabilities, it is strategy employed in developing these "Vishkanya" - poison women loosely.

Chanakya's ArthaShastra has been wrongly described as similar to Machiavellian works which deals with only espionage & subverting a rival power. The Arthashastra deals with that, but that is only 5-10% of the whole. The remaining parts of Arthashasrtra describes an entire economic model for nations / kingdoms to follow, the duties of a king, how to deal with rebellion etc - many, & almost all still applicable to modern society.


I would think that the reason for improved health effects would be similar to a glass of wine a day, blood thinning. The snake venom thickens and coagulates the blood, the body tries to fight it by rebounding oppositely. Over time, the body's blood naturally becomes thinner resulting in cardiovascular health improvements


For those that don't want to read the love story, here is a vice documentary about it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8q_m-rDUNw0


It's stories like this, which, somewhat perversely, give me an immense sense of hope for humanity.

Also, maybe it's the art direction or lighting of the photography (and/or Photoshop) but Steve looks very healthy - as much as one can tell from appearance alone.


First time I've said it, ever.. my hero


Reminds me of Rant Casey.




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