Sharks produce squalene, natural oil made in their livers, which is an ingredient in several Covid-19 vaccine candidates. Squalene is currently used as an adjuvant in medicine – an ingredient that increases the effectiveness of a vaccine by creating a stronger immune response.
Pharmaceutical company GSK is currently using shark squalene in flu vaccines. The company said it would manufacture a billion doses of this adjuvant for potential use in Covid-19 vaccines, reported by Sin Chew.
Shark Allies, a California-based group, suggests that if the world’s population received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine containing the liver oil, around 250,000 sharks would need to be slaughtered. But according to researchers, most likely we will need 2 doses, this would increase to 500,000 sharks also depending on the amount of squalene used.
According to Sky News, to avoid threatening shark populations, scientists are testing an alternative to squalene – a synthetic version made from fermented sugar cane.
“Harvesting something from a wild animal is never going to be sustainable, especially if it’s a top predator that doesn’t reproduce in huge numbers.
“There are so many unknowns of how big and how long this pandemic might go on, and then how many versions of it we have to go through, that if we continue using sharks, the numbers of sharks taken for this product could be really high, year after year after year,” said Stefanie Brendl, founder of Shark Allies.
According to estimates made by conservationists, around 3 million sharks are killed every year for squalene, which is also used in cosmetics and machine oil.
There are fears that a sudden rise in demand for the liver oil could threaten populations and see more species become endangered as many species-rich in squalene, such as the gulper shark, are already vulnerable.
Info via Sin Chew.