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Termite Genome Research Could Lead To Non-polluting Pesticides

Stan Jastrzebski

Termites have long been seen as unique in the animal kingdom – Think about it: how many other species can you name that digest wood? But until a few years ago, it wasn’t affordable to sequence a termite’s entire genome.

Now that the price has come down, Purdue entomology professor Mike Scharf and about 60 colleagues worldwide have developed a gene map and are looking for weak spots in the bugs’ genetic code.

“We can target those particular things in a more efficient way to eventually get better termiticides,” Scharf says.

Those termiticides, ideally, will eliminate the pests from inside homes without harming the surrounding environment.

Termites also keep some 4,000 types of bacteria in their digestive system without any posing harm to the host organism. Scharf and one of his students hope to learn how.