Protein In Tarantula Venom Could Be Used As Insecticide

Scientists in Australia report they have found a way to turn a protein found in the venom of the Australian tarantula into an insecticide. Tests show the protein is particularly effective against the cotton bollworm.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

As you just heard, scorpion venom may someday improve the treatment of children with brain cancer. Turns out, scientists have been turning to natural poisons for a variety of purposes.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Bee venom is used in cancer treatments. In India, cobra venom is used to treat arthritis. And now tarantula venom could have a new use.

MONTAGNE: In the latest edition of the journal Plos One, scientists say they've discovered a way to use a protein found in the venom of the Australian tarantula as an environmentally friendly insecticide. Tests show the protein is particularly effective against the cotton bollworm. It's a pest that wreaks havoc on cotton, corn and other crops.

INSKEEP: Now, it's not surprising the venom would kill bollworms. Spider venoms are usually toxic when injected into insects, the way it is when a tarantula bites. But it turns out, the small, poisonous protein also kills worms when they consume it. The study finds that when ingested, the venom is as toxic to the worm as a synthetic insecticide.

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