Using insects to test for drug safety

Sep 08, 2009

Insects, such as some moths and fruit flies, react to microbial infection in the same way as mammals and so can be used to test the efficiency of new drugs, thereby reducing the need for animal testing. Dr Kevin Kavanagh from the National University of Ireland - Maynooth, presented his research findings at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, today (8 September).

Neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell and part of the mammalian immune system, and haematocytes, which are cells that carry out a similar function in insects, react in the same way to infecting microbes. Both the insect and mammalian cells produce chemicals with a similar structure which move to the surface of the cells to kill the invading microbe. The immune cells then enclose the microbe and release enzymes to break it down.

Insects such as (Drosophila), Greater Wax Moths (Galleria) and a type of Hawkmoth (Manduca) can be used to test the efficacy of new antimicrobial drugs or to judge how virulent fungal pathogens are. It is now routine practice to use to perform initial testing of new drugs and then to use mice for confirmation tests. As well as reducing by up to 90% the number of mice required, this method of testing is quicker as tests with insects yield results in 48󈞴 hours whereas tests with mice usually take 4-6 weeks.

"We will continue to explore the similarities between insect and mammalian immune responses so that insects can be used as models to study different disease states in humans," said Dr Kavanagh.

"In addition we have shown that immune cells in and mammals are structurally and functionally similar despite being separated by over 400 million years of evolution."

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taking the sting out of insect disease

Oct 31, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Queensland researchers have made a discovery that could open up a new front in the fight against insect-transmitted diseases.

Two-phase microbial resistance: the example of insects

Nov 26, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- In less than an hour, the immune system of the beetle Tenebrio molitor neutralizes most of the bacteria infecting its hemolymph (the equivalent to blood in vertebrates); this is rendered possible ...

Researchers Study Gene Regulation In Insects

Apr 27, 2006

Susan Brown, an associate professor of biology at Kansas State University, is interested in how evolution generates so much diversity in insects shapes and forms.

Insect gut detects unhealthy meal

Dec 21, 2007

Plant leaves and surfaces are teeming with microbial life, yet the insects that feed on plants lack adaptive immune systems to fend off any intruding microorganisms they eat along with their greens. Now research published ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

21 hours ago

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

22 hours ago

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 0