The fungi could also be a game-changer for research into new anti-viral and anti-cancer drugs, but until now, breeding them has been extremely complicated. A research team from Korea and Egypt has found a way to better grow the mushrooms in the lab.

The fungi are very rare in nature and difficult to cultivate, which is why little research has been done on them so far. In the laboratory, the mushrooms could already be cultivated with brown rice, but only produced a small amount of cordycepin.

For this reason, the researchers use insects as richer protein sources. Cordyceps fungi are known to infest insects and turn them into zombies: the fungi take control of the host’s body and manipulate its behavior to infect other insects.

Recent research suggests that a chemical compound found in the mushroom called cordycepin in particular has many potential health benefits, including anti-cancer and anti-viral properties.

“In nature, insects are the direct sources of nutrients for Cordyceps,” the scientists write. “Therefore, optimized conditions for culturing the fungi for efficient cordycepin production were explored, using six edible insects as substrates.” These included mealworms, crickets and grasshoppers.

The study author Dr. According to Mi Kyeong Lee, the mushrooms grown on edible insects contained about 100 times more cordycepin compared to those grown on brown rice. Although cordycepin levels varied by insect, the researchers found that fat — not protein — was the key factor.

There is evidence that cordycepin has antiviral properties. Recent research also underscores its potential as a Covid-19 therapy, Lee said. The scientists published their results on Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Quellen: Forbes, Frontiers in Microbiology