We have previously discussed how people often do not consider the real costs of pollution or the loss of rainforest in our debates over environmental protection. The destruction of these rainforests will contribute to global warming and accelerate the loss of species. Those species will not only reduce diversity in this world but many likely hold medical and scientific breakthroughs. We have found key treatments for diseases and illnesses in such rare species. We have another reminder of that potential this week after Brazilian researchers found that a molecule in the venom the jararacussu pit viper may combat COVID-19. The point is not that the viper is going extinct but it is another reminder that much of our “miracle” drugs still come from rare species. It is still not clear that this is a treatment as claimed. Many such earlier research does not pan out. However, if proven, this would not be the first such discovery of a beneficial drug for humans in the animal kingdom.
The viper study appeared in the scientific journal Molecules this month and found that the molecule inhibited the virus’s ability to multiply in monkey cells by 75%. This is specifically a a peptide, or chain of amino acids, that can connect to an enzyme of the coronavirus called PLPro, which is vital to reproduction of the virus.
We should, of course, not protect the environment just because it benefits us as humans, but (if sheer environmentalism does not motivate some) self-preservation should. The rapid loss of species in places like Brazil means the loss of possible new drugs and science associated with those species. I have been in the Amazon and I have seen the tremendous density of rare and often fantastic species on display. However, under the government of Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation is continuing as a disastrous rate. With his government, it has surged to a 12 year high.