Insect Derived Leads for Drug Development

The emergence of new bacterial strains and increasing bacterial resistance against antibiotics is at the origin of a growing number of severe, sometimes life threatening bacterial infections in hospitals and even in daily life environment, for which the 2011 EHEC epidemic in Germany is the most recent example. These events clearly demonstrate the urgent need for new antimicrobial drugs. Insects harbor a plethora of antimicrobial compounds providing potential templates for further drug development.

The Bioresources business area applies knowledge-based discovery to identify new drug leads. The rat-tailed maggot of the drone fly Eristalis tenax, for example, is the only animal that can survive in farm pits by feeding on putrid slime. This extreme environment is devoid of parasites, predators and competitors for food, offering significant advantages for survival. Even so, rat-tailed maggots must possess a well-adapted immune system as they need to survive in an environment rich in diverse microbes, which they eat. The Bioresources business area confirmed this hypothesis by identifying 19 peptides produced by maggots in response to bacterial immune stimuli

The activity of insect compounds is not limited to fight microbial infections. We investigate compound activities from various insect species also with respect to other fields, for example pain therapy, wound healing, and cancer.