New Worm Species ‘Steinernema Adamsi’ Discovered in Thailand Kills Insects, Could Replace Pesticides [Study]

A new worm species that kills insects was discovered in the soil of a longan tree in the Mueang Lamphun District, Thailand. Scientists are considering that it has the potential to replace pesticides in the future. The breakthrough findings are according to a study led by researchers from Thailand and the United States. They described the new animal species “Steinernema adamsi” as a tiny parasitic worm and an entomopathogenic nematode.

Nematodes are any worms that belong to the phylum Nematoda, whose members are widespread across Earth and they are known for being parasites in animals and plants. They also live in freshwater, marine, and soil environments.

In the past, scientists have described about 20,000 species under the phylum. Also called roundworms, nematodes are multi-cellular insects whose bodies are unsegmented.

Over the past century, experts have acknowledged documentation that earthworms possess medicinal and nutritional benefits for humans. However, parasitic worms like intestinal parasites are known for causing more harm than good. Despite this, the new research paper sheds light on the wide range of purposes of bilateral, invertebrate animals, including in the field of agriculture.

New Worm Species

New Worm Species 'Steinernema Adamsi' Discovered in Thailand Kills Insects, Could Replace Pesticides [Study]
(Photo : Photo by Robert Gunnarsson on Unsplash)

Findings about the new worm species discovered in Thailand was published in The Journal of Parasitology on February 9. The research article describes not only the unearthing of the new entomopathogenic nematode but also confirms the species can be successfully put in cryopreservation.

The authors of the study said this method can preserve the creature’s traits and be valuable for future use.

The US and Thailand scientific team was able to find S. adamsi by employing baiting techniques. They were able to confirm that it is a new species of worm by analyzing the nematode’s morphological traits or its physical appearance. Furthermore, the team identified a symbiotic bacteria associated with the worm, which been considered to have the potential to be a source of an effective biological control agent.

Also Read: New Worm Species Discovered in Antarctic Whale Bones

Replacement for Pesticides

Being a nematode, the new worm species can infect and kill insects, particularly soil-dwelling pests. The worms enter an insect’s body where they defecate deadly pathogenic bacteria inside their hosts, which die rapidly within 48 hours from being infected. For now, the scientists involved in the research paper have not mentioned the nematode species’ impact on humans once consumed.

Due to this biological trait and the symbiotic relation of the worm with the bacteria (from the genera Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus), the researchers are hoping that it could replace chemical pesticides, deemed as harmful to the environment and health.

Currently, the new worm species has a track record of liquefying its insect host with the help of bacteria, as mentioned earlier.

Prior to the February 2024 study, another worm species called the horsehair worm has also been known for killing many harmful pests like cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, and centipedes, according to the Oklahoma State University.

Related Article: European Earthworm Invasion Responsible for the Decline of Species Diversity in North American Forests

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