Take Two Cockroaches and Call Me in the Morning

By Susan Littlefield

Most gardeners know that, when it comes to the insect world, we have friends as well as enemies. While some insects cause problems for us in our gardens and homes, many more are beneficials, working hard to pollinate plants, keep the "bad bugs" at bay, and provide food for other creatures in the food web. But it's been hard to take anything other than a negative view of that ubiquitous, hardy and very "yucky" pest, the cockroach.

Until now that is. Recent research by microbiologist Simon Lee at the University of Nottingham in England has shown that the brains of cockroaches and locusts are teeming with antimicrobial compounds that are effective against some nasty, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. (And don't you just wonder what made him even think of testing roach brains to begin with?)

As reported in the October 9, 2010 issue of Science News, extracts made from the ground up brains of both the American cockroach and the desert locust were lethal to more than 90% of a type of E.coli that causes meningitis and also killed MRSA, a virulent, antibiotic-resistant staph bacterium. The scientists hope that this discovery will lead to the development of new medicines to fight the serious infectious diseases these germs cause.

So while it may be too much to expect folks to look kindly on a roach scuttling across the kitchen floor at night, perhaps its image will be somewhat rehabilitated by this news- maybe.

For more information on this research, go to: Cockroach Brains.

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