Mushroom That Turns Bugs to Zombies Is Grown to Fight Cancer and COVID

Matthias Graben via Getty

In the video game The Last of Us, the world has been transformed into a post-apocalyptic nightmare due to a mutated fungus known as Cordyceps, which transforms humans into cannibalistic zombies. That’s a fictional scenario of course but this parasitic mushroom actually does exist in real life, where it infects insects, feeds on its victims body and even changes its behavior before killing it and sprouting from its body.

As gruesome as that sounds, Cordyceps pose no such danger to humans—and has even been shown to provide anti-cancer benefits due to its major compound cordycepin. But there’s one problem: It’s really hard to grow Cordyceps in a lab. The typical method of growing the fungus is on grains like brown rice. However, the concentration of lab-grown cordycepin is much lower than those found in infected bugs in the wild. Researchers suspected this was due to the low amount of protein in the grains when compared to when the fungus infects protein rich insects.

In a breakthrough published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, a team of scientists were able successfully cultivate Cordyceps containing high levels of cordycepin using the bodies of insects as the growth medium. This new process could lead to the research and development of better cordycepin-based anti-cancer treatments. The study’s authors also believe that it could help treat COVID-19 too.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Source: The Daily Beast

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