4 Insects Used to Treat Wounds and Diseases

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) – Think bugs are annoying and have no redeeming qualities? Well, think again. A slew of research has exposed an amazing fact: insects can help address a wide variety of human ailments. More are being studied for use to treat wounds and diseases. Here are four examples of how insects have been shown to alleviate the symptoms of particular maladies.

  • Maggot therapy: When the blow fly lands in an open gash, it does what all flies do—it lays maggots. But these maggots are special: they secrete a curative chemical, known as allantoin, to treat osteomyelitis, according to The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. Sometimes maggots are used in a process called maggot debridement therapy to eat bacteria and dead tissue.
  • Cockroach brains as antibiotics: Researchers at the University of Nottingham found that the brains of cockroaches and locusts are a source of powerful antibiotics that could be used to create treatments for bacterial infections that have so far proved to be drug-resistant, according to a report in Digital Journal. Nine molecules in the insects’ tissues were shown to be toxic to bacteria.
  • Cobwebs used for wound dressing: An analysis of the properties of spider silk, published in the American Chemistry Society journal Chemical Reviews, suggests that this substance possesses a number of antibiotic, wound-healing and clot-inducing activities, with cobweb wrapping helpful in preventing the body from rejecting implants.
  • Tick saliva as a key to rare diseases: One of the most remarkable traits of these tiny creatures involves their saliva: it contains molecules that somehow damp down the immune response of the host animal the tick feeds off of, enabling it to repeatedly feed without damage from host inflammatory substances, according to research published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.

“Insect biology harbors a slew of surprises that are proving very helpful to medical researchers,” says Gur Roshwalb, M.D., CEO of Akari Therapeutics. “For those with an interest in rare diseases, ticks have proven to be an inspiring source of insights.”

A protein in the saliva of the tick Ornithodoros moubata has been used to derive a new inhibitor of the complement protein C5, a small recombinant compact protein named Coversin. The natural Coversin molecule works by damping down the immune response of the host animal that the tick feeds off of, enabling it to repeatedly feed without damage from host inflammatory substances. Akari is currently studying Coversin as a potential treatment for a range of rare autoimmune diseases.

These diseases include Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH), a rare and serious acquired disease that causes red blood cells to break apart, according to the PNH Research & Support Foundation. Additional potential uses of Coversin are to treat atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (aHUS), which causes abnormal blood clots to form in small blood vessels in the kidneys, and Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Akari has been granted Orphan Drug Designations by the FDA for Coversin, for the treatment of GBS and PNH. In March 2017, the FDA granted Fast Track designation for Coversin for treatment of PNH in patients who have polymorphisms conferring resistance to eculizumab.

“Along with revelations from other aspects of insect biology, tick saliva is turning out to be a potential key to new approaches for treating inflammatory diseases,” adds Roshwalb.

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