Recently, we visited the Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, Florida.  It was an interesting visit and we were able to watch them milk the snakes for their venom.  One of the things that stood out to me was the way that they make the antivenin.

Making Antivenin

Step 1: Snakes are milked for their venom.  We watched as the handlers would grab the snakes and get them to bite through a covering on a vial where the snake would inject its venom.  The BTG information mentions that the snakes are milked in Utah, although I thought for sure the Serpentarium in Florida sent their venom as well.

Step 2: The venom is filtered to remove any other contaminants (which is funny since it is deadly by itself).  Then, it is diluted and frozen for shipping.

Step 3: It is shipped to Rosedale, Australia near Adelaide.  Apparently, the sheep in Australia are free of many of the sicknesses that plagues sheep in other parts of the world.  Companies are afraid that if these sheep were imported to other parts of the world, they might develop those diseases after being imported.  It’s less risky to just set up operation in Australia and ship the venom.

Step 4: The vemon is injected into the sheep in small, increasing doses.  The sheep’s body produces antibodies to fight the venom so that it is not harmed.

Step 5: The sheep’s blood is harvested now that it is full of antibodies that can fight the venom.  It is frozen and sent off to Wales.

Step 6: In Wales, the blood is processed to extract the antibodies.  According to BTG, it goes through 20 stages to get just the antibodies.  The stages include centrifugation, chromatography, viral filtration, and sterile filtration.

Sheep Farm

When you think of a sheep farm, you think of products like wool for clothes or mutton for meat.  Blood for medicine isn’t one of the products that comes to my mind.  But, the Protherics farm in Rosedale, Australia must do just that.  I read that 80 employees take care of 12,500 sheep on the farm.

Protherics Farm in Australia via Google Maps

BTG is the company that owns the farm.  Apparently, they bought Protherics back in 2008.  They produce Crofab, the brand name of the antivenin, and another drug called Digifab also using the sheep.  They also produce other drugs such as Cytofab, Voraxaze, OncoGel, Prolarix, and Acadra.

Alternatives

In Mexico, Instituto Bioclon makes another product called Antivipmyn that is used to treat snake bites using a similar process.  Instead of using sheep, they use horses.

A push has been made to get FDA approval for Antivipmyn in the United States.  Apparently, in Mexico, a vial of antivenin is $100 whereas in the U.S. it can range between $7900 and $39,000.  BTG needs some competition!  BTG’s argument is that the Antivipmyn infringes on their patents that remove parts of the antibodies that cause some of the adverse side effects.

An Object Lesson of Biblical Proportions

The snake has long been a symbol of Satan.  Satan took the form of a serpent in the garden of Eden where he tempted Eve to commit the first sin.

And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. (Genesis 3:13)

God made the first sacrifice as a result of that sin.

And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. (Genesis 3:13)

Gensis doesn’t say that it was a lamb, but many of the sacrifices in the Bible where.  Abraham offered a ram in place of Isaac.  The lambs were offered throughout Goshen on the night of the passover.  The blood of the lamb makes payment for the sins that we commit.

Remember that before Adam and Eve committed that first sin, everything was perfect.  There was no venom in the world.  There was no death.

These sheep have an ability that we don’t have: the ability to clean venom out of our body.  God provided His own lamb with an ability that we don’t have.  Not only was His lamb perfect, He had the ability to wash the sin from our lives.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

All God asks is that we place our trust in Jesus to take away our sins.  The best part is that there is no FDA approval required and not hospital bills to go along with it.  Jesus’ sin-washing blood is free!

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