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The healing power of bugs

HEALTH

Bugs. Yuck, right? But, suspend your prejudice, they have their therapeutic uses. Take spiders. Scientists have discovered that spiders can help treat irritable bowel syndrome — a condition more than 10% of the world’s population lives with. Toxins produced by tarantula venom activate a protein that blocks out intestinal pain signals. Also present in spider venom is the peptide Hm1a, which researchers have found can calm epileptic seizures in mice. "Spiders kill their prey through venom compounds that target the nervous system," says Professor Steven Petrou. "Millions of years of evolution have refined spider venom to specifically target certain ion channels, without causing side effects on others, and drugs derived from spider venoms retain this accuracy.”

Is there anything more irritating than a wasp? A common refrain is "What are they good for?" It may surprise you to learn that the wasp does have an upside. Scientists have discovered there is a curative potential in its sting. A peptide present in the venom has antimicrobial and anti-viral properties that have therapeutic potential, which — in a clinical setting — could provide an alternative for combating multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There’s more. Researchers have identified a new class of wasp venom that may pave the way to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.


And maggots. Just the mental image of them is enough to make you squirm. But when introduced to tissue wound, maggots can disinfect the skin and stimulate the healing process. In some parts of the world “maggot therapy” is a thing. Doctors have discovered that a large number of maggots can consume dead tissue far more precisely than surgeons. The enzymes they produce liquefy the damaged tissue, which they eat, leaving a clean wound within a couple of days. So perhaps think twice before you squish a bug!

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