New Osteoarthritis Painkiller Made from Caterpillar Fungus

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are among the well-known ingredients found in pain relievers, but an unusual addition that works just as well as existing medications may be making its way onto store shelves.

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are among the well-known ingredients found in pain relievers, but an unusual addition that works just as well as existing medications may be making its way onto store shelves.

A pilot study conducted by researchers from The University of Nottingham evaluated the effectiveness of cordycepin, a parasitic mushroom that lives on caterpillars, as a painkiller following a joint injury.

“There is currently a massive gap in available, effective, side-effect-free painkillers for the millions of people with arthritis who have to live with their pain every day, so new approaches are very much-needed,” Stephen Simpson, director of research programmes and information at Arthritis Research UK, said in a news release.

Lead scientist Cornelia de Moor and her colleagues administered the cordycepin to rats and mice via food pellets. The aim was to see if the caterpillar fungus could prevent pain as well as relieve it.

“When we first started investigating this compound it was frankly a bit of a long-shot and there was much skepticism from the scientific community,” de Moor said. “But we were stunned by the response from the pilot study, which showed that it was as effective as conventional painkillers in rats.”

The origin of this ingredient is not the only innovative thing about it. The team revealed that although cordycepin blocks the inflammatory process in osteoarthritis pain like typical medications, it does so in a different way and at a different stage. This means that patients could experience fewer side effects and provide relief where steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) lack.

“This study is the first step in a potential drug development for a new class of drugs for osteoarthritis, although there are a number of hurdles we have to go through — necessarily so – before it gets nearer patients,” de Moor explained. “To the best of our knowledge, cordycepin has never been tested as a lead compound for osteoarthritis pain.”

The researchers indicated that the caterpillar fungus pain reliever could be making its way into medicine cabinets after clinical trials begin within the next 6 to 10 years. But until that happens, de Moor will continue researching if cordycepin targets the knee joint or nerves when it comes to pain messages.

“Dr de Moor’s research is certainly novel, and we believe may hold promise as a future source of pain relief for people with osteoarthritis,” Simpson said.

Although the pilot study results seem promising, the team urges patients to hold off from trying to get their hands on the substance for pain relief since medications with cordycepin (for sale in Europe) are not of quality.