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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2014, Article ID 904958, 21 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/904958
Review Article

Recent Advances in Developing Insect Natural Products as Potential Modern Day Medicines

1Laboratório de Biologia de Insetos, Departamento de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, RJ, Brazil
2Department of Biosciences, College of Science, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
3Laboratório de Bioquímica e Fisiologia de Insetos, Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Avenida Brasil 4365, 21045-900 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Received 1 December 2013; Accepted 28 January 2014; Published 6 May 2014

Academic Editor: Ronald Sherman

Copyright © 2014 Norman Ratcliffe et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Except for honey as food, and silk for clothing and pollination of plants, people give little thought to the benefits of insects in their lives. This overview briefly describes significant recent advances in developing insect natural products as potential new medicinal drugs. This is an exciting and rapidly expanding new field since insects are hugely variable and have utilised an enormous range of natural products to survive environmental perturbations for 100s of millions of years. There is thus a treasure chest of untapped resources waiting to be discovered. Insects products, such as silk and honey, have already been utilised for thousands of years, and extracts of insects have been produced for use in Folk Medicine around the world, but only with the development of modern molecular and biochemical techniques has it become feasible to manipulate and bioengineer insect natural products into modern medicines. Utilising knowledge gleaned from Insect Folk Medicines, this review describes modern research into bioengineering honey and venom from bees, silk, cantharidin, antimicrobial peptides, and maggot secretions and anticoagulants from blood-sucking insects into medicines. Problems and solutions encountered in these endeavours are described and indicate that the future is bright for new insect derived pharmaceuticals treatments and medicines.