Brazil police investigate cause of blaze which wiped out 85,000 dead snakes used to develop vaccines

Tom Phillips

Police in Sao Paulo were today investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed one of the world’s largest collection of dead snakes.

The 85,000-strong snake collection, used by scientists to develop vaccines and medicines, was destroyed with an estimated 450,000 spider and scorpion specimens when fire swept through the Butantan Institute’s archive.

“We have lost everything and this is a loss for humanity,” the collection’s curator, Francisco Franco, told the Agencia Brasil news agency. “The snakes … were used as the basis for studies and to increase our knowledge of the biodiversity of snakes. All of the snakes were lost. Today there is nothing left.”

The Butantan Institute was founded at the start of the 20th century when Sao Paulo’s governors looked to Brazilian scientists after an outbreak of bubonic plague in the port city of Santos. Over the decades, with Sao Paulo a booming centre of coffee production, researchers sought vaccines against snakebites to protect coffee harvesters working in the fields.

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About the author


Jeffry John Aufderheide is the father of a child injured as a result of vaccination. As editor of the website he promotes well-educated pediatricians, informed consent, and full disclosure and accountability of adverse reactions to vaccines.