Scientists from the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) and the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) are planning to undertake a study of anti-cancer properties of the fungus.T., whiich was first reported by Santhosh Kumar, Assistant Professor, Regional Agricultural Research Station, Pilicode in 2013.
He came across the properties of the fungus T. while researching on the coconut root grub ( Leucopholis coneophora ) in Kannur, Kozhikode and Kasaragod districts of Kerala.
The fungus belongs to the Cordyceps genus, also known as caterpillar fungus and it was able to suppress cancer in tumours inhibiting the proliferation of lung cancer cells, according to a report in The Hindu.
KAU Vice Chancellor P. Rajendran told Hindu: “We will also explore the possibility of using the species to develop nutraceuticals with immunity-enhancement, anti-aging, and anti-fatigue properties.”
If the scientists can develop the culture of the fungus in a lab condition, then there is enormous scope for the anti-cancer treatment, which can probably replace the standard chemotherapy to treat cancers.
The fungus first requires its larva as host where the spore germinates within the body of the grub and then kills the host. The fruiting body of the fungus then emerges from the dead larva and it can be effective in natural control of the coconut root grub.
The fungus reaches the trunk and feeds on the roots but scientists have to find an alternative host species to multiply the fungus for treatment.
The fungi family has been referred in ancient Ayurveda medicine as a rare medicinal drug with a broad range of pharmacological benefits on pittha system in the human body covering liver, kidneys, heart, and even the immune system.
Some species of cordyceps are sold at Rs.5 lakhs per kg and farmers can expect to grow the fungus on a commercial scale.