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Cockroach-killing toxin discovered in horrifying bootlace worms

With potential to grow as long as 180 feet, the bootlace worm isn’t a creature you’d like to encounter while out for a swim.

But, scientists say these bizarre marine worms could be the answer to fighting some seemingly unbeatable pests – including cockroaches.

A new study has found that a powerful neurotoxin produced in the bootlace worm’s thick mucus can paralyze and kill crustaceans and cockroaches, potentially making it useful for the development of agricultural insecticides.

 

With potential to grow as long as 180 feet, the bootlace worm isn’t a creature you’d like to encounter while out for a swim. But, scientists say these bizarre marine worms (shown) could be the answer to fighting some seemingly unbeatable pests

While the toxin found in Lineus longissimus’ mucus have a strong effect on certain insects and crustaceans, laboratory tests suggest it’s likely not poisonous to humans and other mammals.

This species of ‘ribbon worm’ releases its mucus when irritated.

In the study, researchers extracted the most prevalent toxin and conducted a number of laboratory tests to see their affects on the ionic channels, which control the transport of ions in and out of cells.

The toxin was tested on three species of invertebrates: the German cockroach, fruit fly and Varroa mite.

And, they found it spurred continuous electric signalling in their nerves and muscles, causing paralysis.

‘This peptide toxin is the most poisonous substance to have been found in Sweden’s animal kingdom and the fact that it may be possible to use it makes the discovery even more exciting,’ says Ulf Göransson, Professor of Pharmacognosy, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Uppsala University.

‘We already know that peptide toxins are found in, for example, cone shells that live in tropical waters.

‘These ribbon worms live in colder waters, for example, the coastlines of Great Britain and Norway and the west coast of Sweden.’

According to the researchers, similar techniques have been used to develop pharmaceuticals, insecticides, and other products from neurotoxins produced by snakes, spiders, and cone shells.

This species of ¿ribbon worm¿ releases its mucus when irritated

While the toxin found in Lineus longissimus¿ mucus have a strong effect on certain insects and crustaceans, laboratory tests suggest it¿s likely not poisonous to humans and other mammals

While the toxin found in Lineus longissimus’ mucus have a strong effect on certain insects and crustaceans, laboratory tests suggest it’s likely not poisonous to humans and other mammals. This species of ‘ribbon worm’ releases its mucus when irritated.

WHAT ARE BOOTLACE WORMS? 

Bootlace worms are among the longest animals in the world

Bootlace worms are among the longest animals in the world

Bootlace worms Lineus longissimus are among the longest animals in the world.

Scientists say they can grow up to 55 meters (180 feet) long.

They’re typically found in areas with colder waters, such as the coastlines of Great Britain and Norway, and the west coast of Sweden, according to Ulf Göransson, Professor of Pharmacognosy, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Uppsala University.

When agitated, bootlace worms produce a thick mucus that’s laden with a potent neurotoxin.

Researchers studying the toxin say it can paralyze and kill cockroaches and crustaceans, though it likely is not harmful to humans. 

The team also investigated the toxin’s effects on the sodium channels of mammals, and found the reaction was far less extreme.

The findings suggest the worm’s toxin could be used for new insecticides.

‘The peptide toxin has a very powerful effect on crustaceans and cockroaches, which is why it could serve as a very effective insecticide,’ Göransson says.

‘From a research point of view, it’s exciting to have discovered a new toxin in our own fauna, in a group of animals that has basically never been explored.’



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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