One of the deadliest caterpillars could hold the cure to a host of modern illnesses, researchers have found.
The highly venomous caterpillar found in Queensland, Australia has substances within its venom that could have health benefits.
It would also potentially be used for pest control, researchers from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience have found.
Caterpillars have no teeth or claws and are slow-moving, making them vulnerable to predators, so certain furry caterpillars have spikes that inject venom.
This neon blue caterpillar is called Doratifera vulnerans, which means bearer of gifts of wounds.
It can be found in southeast Queensland as well as in Brisbane’s Toohey Forest Park.
Dr Andrew Walker, who has been studying the caterpillar since 2017, said they found a Doratifera vulnerans close to Toowoomba, Queensland and its pain-inducing venom caught his attention.
Unlike the beloved Very Hungry Caterpillar of the children's picture book, the Doratifera vulnerans is described as "far from harmless” in the Institute for Molecular Bioscience report.
With venom similar to that of spiders, research shows the toxins within its venom have properties that could be used in biotechnology or medicine.
Dr Walker’s report found that the caterpillar’s venom has over 150 different poisons from 59 different families.
The researchers examined how these different poisons had come together through the evolution process to create the deadly caterpillar.
Dr Walker said that they now know the “blueprints of each protein-based toxin", which will allow them to develop the different poisons and test them.
The report also showed that the Doratifera vulnerans venom has the ability to kill bacteria. The study has shown a new source of organic substances which could have potential use in medicines.
Dr Walker said the next step will be to decipher what the toxins are doing to determine how they can be used.
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