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Silkworm also has medicinal value

india Updated: Aug 12, 2006 01:09 IST

WE HAVE known silkworm for producing the silk fibre, the finest of all synthetic fibres. But not many know the utility of the silkworm for producing drugs and for controlling diseases.  

Renowned scientist from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Prof KP Gopinathan delivered a lecture on ‘The Silky Path of Biotechnology’, while elaborating on the silkworm on the occasion of the foundation day of Central Institute of Medicine and Aromatic Plants on Friday.

Gopinathan said, “We are working on Bacillovirus, the natural pathogen of silkworm that kills silk. Through manipulation, the virus can be used for producing several drugs. Its properties have been exploited for making vaccines for veterinary viruses affecting small cattle. Laboratory trials for these vaccines have been already completed and proved to be working. Bigger trials for these vaccines are still to be worked on.

Similar virus has some anti-rabies properties that can be used for making a vaccine for rabies. Scientists are exploring possibilities of a vaccine virus and work in this regard had already begun, he added.  

Man had exploited mulberry silkworm for more than 2,000 years for the production of the proteinanceous silk fibre. Nearly 6 million people in India use sericulture, the cultivation of the silkworms for the production of silk as their livelihood. Although technology in agriculture and medical fields had advanced so much in recent years but sericulture remained traditional for years, the scientist added.

Application of biotechnology for improvement in silk production is needed in our country, since India produces 15,000 tons of silk every year and holds the position of being the second largest producer of silk in world. But due to high labour intensive process, farmers cultivating silkworm earns barely Rs 3,000 per year. But with better races, better yields and disease control; larger amount can be produced, added Gopinathan.

Earlier, director CIMAP, SPS Khanuja, said for ‘farming’ to become ‘pharming’ was not a dream but a reality now. CIMAP would be the catalyst for it, he said.