Sugar may be tenacious termite’s Achilles heel

June 9th, 2009 - 5:32 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 9 (ANI): Scientists in the US have come up with a cheap, environmentally friendly way to kill termites and other pests.

In their study, they have found that a substance derived from glucose can weaken the insects’ immune systems, making them vulnerable to infections from lethal microbes.

According to researchers, the findings could give rise to a whole new class of safer pest-control treatments.

“We wanted something environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and [that] does not play a toxic role,” said study co-author Ram Sasisekharan, a biological engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Termites are vulnerable to just a few types of microbes, and evolution has armed the insects with a specific weapon against disease: a protein in their bodies that acts like an antimicrobial agent.

Sasisekharan said that for added protection at home, the insects secrete this protein into their nests, where it releases compounds that fight off microbial invasion - a “very clever way of ensuring that microbes don’t infest the colonies.”

However, when researchers exposed termites to a glucose derivative called GDL, the substance blocked the insects’ protective protein from forming, and the termites quickly died of disease.

“We do hope that [this] different approach-which is hopefully more selective and less toxic-would be a newer opportunity” for pest control, Sasisekharan said.

The inexpensive sugar derivative could also work on other pests, such as locusts and cockroaches.

The findings will appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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