Yartsa gunbu (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) – Entomopathogen nicknamed Himalayan Viagra.

News:

Himalayan locals sustainably cultivate natural aphrodisiac as Big Pharma seeks to cash in

High up in the Himalayan mountains, hidden in the quiet pastures, grows a rare medicinal fungus. Nicknamed Himalayan Viagra, Yartsa gunbu (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is harvested in early spring from the mummified bodies of caterpillars. When ghost moth caterpillars burrow into the ground, the rare fungus invades their cocoons. The fungus, appearing as dime-sized spores, is collected from the grasslands in early spring from mummified caterpillar bodies high up in the Himalayan Mountains across the Tibetan Plateau.

The small communities of Nubri and Tsum, located high up near Nepal’s northern Gorkha District border, have put together a plan locally to cultivate Yartsa gunbu sustainably and share its wealth among its villagers. Those who register with the village to harvest the fungus have gone from poverty to riches. Average annual incomes have been multiplied by eight. Villagers who used to earn hundreds of dollars a year now earn up to $4,000. For some, collecting Yartsa gunbu provides 80 percent or more of their income for the entire year.

Fungus:

Ophiocordyceps sinensis is a fungus that parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body valued as an herbal remedy found in mountainous regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet. The fungus germinates in the living larva, kills and mummifies it, and then the stalk-like fruiting body emerges from the corpse. It is known in English colloquially as caterpillar fungus, or by its more prominent names Yartsa Gunbu

Similar to other Cordyceps species, O. sinensis consists of two parts, a fungal endo sclerotium (caterpillar) and stroma. The fertile part of the stroma is the head. The head is granular because of the ostioles of the embedded perithecia. The perithecia are ordinally arranged and ovoid. The asci are cylindrical or slightly tapering at both ends, and may be straight or curved, and may be two to four-spored. Similarly, ascospores are hyaline, filiform, multiseptate.

The species was first described scientifically by Miles Berkeley in 1843 as Sphaeria sinensis; Pier Andrea Saccardo transferred the species to the genus Cordyceps in 1878. Based on a molecular phylogenetic study, Sung et al. (2007) separated the megagenus Cordyceps into four genera as it was polyphyletic, viz. Cordyceps , Ophiocordyceps, Metacordyceps and Elaphocordyceps.  As a result, C. sinensis was transferred to Ophiocordyceps, hence renamed as O. sinensis.

 

 

life-cycle

caterpiller-fungus

 

Reference:

Shrestha B.; Weimin Z.; Yongjie Z.; Xingzhong L. (2010). “What is the Chinese caterpillar fungus Ophiocordyceps sinensis (Ophiocordycipitaceae)?.”. Mycology: An International Journal On Fungal Biology. 1 (4): 228–236. doi:10.1080/21501203.2010.536791

11.22.16

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