Protein Secreted by Nematodes Can Control an Array of Diseases, Crop Damages

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Apr 24, 2017 12:15 PM EDT

Nematodes, mostly a parasitic worm fall in the obscure corners of the animal kingdom and have hardly been studied upon. It is believed that the worm in collaboration with bacteria kills insects that harm crop production. But recent research reveals that the protein secreted by nematodes is venomous enough to kill insects on its own. Thus, it can be used to control an array of diseases as well as crop damages.

According to Phs Org, Nematodes can be found in all types of ecosystems. The research focused on a particular kind of nematode, Steinernema carpocapsae, which belongs within the subcategory of entomopathogenic nematodes. This nematode has a history of killing more than 250 insect pests and is perfect for plants like peaches, tomatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, oranges and pine trees. Steinernema carpocapsae is easily available in the market and gardening stores.

The quality of S. carpocapsae is that they kill their host insects quickly within a day or two. Their life cycle is also fascinating as their growth stops after being born and only restart next when they have infected a host insect. These findings are significant as much was not known about the early stages of parasitism of nematodes. The protein mixture of nematodes is highly toxic and has the power to kill multiple species of insects, revealed Eurek Alert.

The scientists used RNA sequencing technology to study the gene expression of the nematode and discovered 472 proteins that can be used for agricultural and medical applications. The microscopic nematodes once in a host excrete toxic bacteria and spit venom to act as an insecticide. In medical applications, nematode protein can help control auto-immune diseases, but more researchers are needed in this area.

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