Monday, October 5, 2020

Could COVID Protection Trigger Shark Eradication

As the world battles with the devastating human and economic losses due to the Novel Coronavirus 19, sharks and oceans are in danger of being severely impacted as collateral damage.

Squalene, which is found in high concentrations in shark livers is one of the component parts of leading vaccines in trials.

Squalene and its hydrogenated derivative squalane are used in conjunction with “adjuvants” or ingredients used to create a stronger immune response, thus augmenting the strength of the vaccine. Squalene and squalane can be harvested from many other sources, however, sharks are favored by pharmaceutical companies due to its high level of purity and inexpensive pricing. If successful vaccine trials emerge that require squalene and squalene there are environmentally-friendly sources that should be used.  Olives, soybeans, and sunflowers are a few viable and proven sources of this ingredient. 

Squalane can also be synthesized using one of two pathways. The first method is via petrochemical origin and this holds its own environmental challenges.  The second synthetic recipe is new, involves the genetic manipulations of microorganisms, and has not been well tested, thus rendering it a poor option.

The world awaits a vetted vaccine that will allow us to return to our lives, protected from this deadly virus. When we find this solution, we must move forward swiftly but not at the expense of shark populations and overall ocean conservation.

The time is now to look ahead and communicate that any vaccine must be both safe for public consumption and environmentally viable.

By: Georgienne Bradley MA
and Lawrence Stock MD