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Spider Toxin Electrocutes European Roaches

Update Date: Jul 11, 2014 05:45 PM EDT

If you live in Germany and you have a roach problem, think about raising some pet spiders.

New research reveals that spider toxin "electrocute" German cockroaches. However, spider toxins do nothing to American cockroaches.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that naturally occurring insect toxins can be used to target specific pests without harming beneficial insects like bees.

"Most insecticides used today take a carpet-bombing approach, killing indiscriminately and sometimes even hurting humans and other animals," lead researcher Frank Bosmans, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a news release. "The more specific a toxin's target, the less dangerous it is for everything else."

Scientists tested the effect of Dc1a on proteins from American and German cockroaches.

While the proteins reacted very weakly on American roaches, researchers found that it devastated German roaches.

After analyzing proteins called sodium channels, which are found in the outer region of nerve cells throughout the body, Bosmans and his team found that exposure to Dc1a led to a significantly increase in the channels' activity in German cockroaches.

"Sodium poured into the cells. In a bug, that would cause massive seizures, much like being electrocuted," says Bosmans. "Luckily, the toxin doesn't act on human sodium channels."

The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

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