E.coli could be manipulated to produce a substance found in magic mushrooms that wards off depression, research suggests.
A team from Miami University genetically engineered the bacteria to churn out the psychoactive chemical psilocybin.
Best known for triggering 'trippy' hallucinations, it is increasingly being tested as a treatment for psychiatric disorders, like addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
If ever approved for these conditions, scientists will want to produce psilocybin without harvesting copious amounts of mushrooms, the team said.
After producing an E.coli strain that contains psilocybin, the scientists managed to increase its production by 500 times over 18 months.
They claim this demonstrates the 'feasibility' of manufacturing the chemical 'economically from a biological source'.
E.coli could be manipulated to produce psilocybin, the psychoactive substance in magic mushrooms. This is increasingly being shown to effectively treat depression (stock)
More than 180 mushrooms species around the world produce psilocybin, Drug Science reported.
The chemical can enhance the senses, cause users to imagine floating objects and create moments of 'personal reflection', according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
Psilocybin is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the US, making it illegal to cultivate or possess. They are a Class A drug in the UK.
Before 1970, psilocybin was used to treat resistant depression, anxiety and addiction in the UK.
It was around this time the UK 'caught up with the US-led "war on drugs"', according to King's College London.
Psilocybin is one of several psychedelic drugs that have recently reemerged from the shadows with promises to treat mental illnesses and addictions.
Portrayals in stone carvings and rock paintings that predate recorded history suggest people discovered the hallucinogenic powers of 'magic' mushrooms as early as 9000 BC.
The fungi were once the centre piece of religious ceremonies.
In 1959 a chemist at the pharmaceutical company Albert Hofmann identified and separated out the psychoactive compound in mushrooms, known as psilocybin.
Between 1961 and 1965, Sandoz sold the compound as a psychotherapeutic medicine called Indocybin.
It was quickly discontinued when it was widely misused to 'trip' or hallucinate.
Psilocybin has since been tightly