ANTS COULD HELP US CREATE THE NEXT GENERATION OF ANTIBIOTICS?
It looks like humans may have an unlikely ally in the fight against antibacterial resistance: ants. Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that some species of ant possess powerful antimicrobial agents that protect them from disease.
The finding could lead to the development of powerful new antibiotics to replace the current generation of medicines that are becoming less effective as microbes evolve resistance.
The team removed the concoction of chemicals that coats the ants’ bodies and introduced this to a slurry of bacteria. They then compared the growth of the bacteria in the slurry to bacteria in a control group.
Of the 20 species tested, 12 had some sort of antimicrobial agent on their exoskeletons. “One species we looked at, the thief ant (Solenopsis molesta), had the most powerful antibiotic effect of any species we tested – and until now, no one had even shown that they made use of antimicrobials,” said Dr Adrian Smith, who co-authored the paper. “Finding a species that carries a powerful antimicrobial agent is good news for those interested in finding new antibiotic agents that can help humans.”
The researchers remain optimistic, but state that further tests need to be carried out. “Next steps include testing ant species against other bacteria, determining what substances are producing the antibiotic effects – and whether ants produce them or obtain them elsewhere, and exploring what alternative strategies ants use to defend against bacterial pathogens,” said Smith.
Certain ant species have powerful antibiotics on their bodies