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New bacterial insecticide in the wings

A new bacterial insecticide that is deadly against a wide range of insects could be approved within three to four years, say researchers.

Structural biologist Dr Michael Landsberg, of the University of Queensland, and colleagues, report their findings on the bacteria Yersinia entomophaga MH96 this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Yersinia is quite famous because Yersinia pestis is thought to be the causative agent of the black plague," says Landsberg.

"However, this particular strain of yersinia in all tests to date shows no toxicity towards humans but does show toxicity towards insects."

Landsberg says Yersinia entomophaga was first discovered killing a native New Zealand beetle about 15 years ago.

The bacteria produces a protein called Yen-Tc which can kill infected insects within two to three days.

"It gets problems with feeding, and vomiting and diarrhoea," says Landsberg.

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