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Bitten by snakes 173 times, scientist develops immunity by injecting venom

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Bill Haast who took snake venom doses to build immunity against them

Almost all of us turn away when confronted with snakes, especially those which are poisonous. Yet, there are exceptions! One of them is Bill Haast, a scientist-turned-snake handler from the United States, who reportedly was bitten by venomous snakes at least 173 times until mid-2008.

It is also described that 20 times these bites were very dangerous.

In a report in The Washington Post, Haast owned about 10,000 snakes at one point of time and had venom supplies from 200 species from around the world over. His collection included cobras, green mamba, sea snakes, African tree snakes, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, kraits, tiger snakes and vipers.

Haast was in the business of venom extraction for medical research for the sake of saving victims from poisonous snakes’ bite.

Interestingly, Haast went world over to donate his antibody rich blood to snakebite victims as reported by the New York Times in 2011. Haast’s immunity was built over 60 years by every day injecting himself with a cocktail of poison from venomous snakes of 32 species.

Haast used the mithridatism approach -- tolerance to a poison acquired by taking gradually increased doses of it – and this eventually made him immune to venom,

It was at the age of 12 that Haast got his first serious snake bite.

Following his stint as a flight engineer with Pan American World Airways, he started a Miami Serpentarium in 1946. As many as 50,000 people in a year watched him milk the snakes for venom. In fact he provided samples to pharmaceutical laboratories each year.

Haast had a few ill effects after he was bitten by the cobras about 20 times yet he didn’t need any anti-venom vaccination as per Today, I Found Out.

Much to the disbelief of many, Haast died at the age of 100 because of natural causes at his home in Punta Gorda, Florida on June 15, 2011.