Ants, Antibiotics, Antiseptics

Antibiotics in ants? You’re kidding, right? But according to some ground-breaking research by German researchers, the little creatures may yet hold an ace card in our desperate search for ways to counter the spread of antibiotic resistant superkillers.

Erik Frank and his team at the University of Würzburg have been studying the Matabele Ant (Megaponera analis) which lives in the warmer parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It gets involved in major battles in termite mounds, and the ant soldiers take heavy casualties, often losing entire legs. Incredibly, they get dragged back to their nests by their comrades, where special nurse ants treat them. The nurses apply a potent compound comprising proteins which seem to have both antibiotic and antifungal properties. There seems to be a high cure rate. We got this story from the excellent Alice Klein of the even more excellent New Scientist.[1] But as some readers sometimes get paywall problems with them, we’re putting up the preprint report as well.[2]

And the moral in the story? There’s always a moral, gentle readers. That the relentless destruction of forests, oceans and wild places in general may be a seriously major mistake. We’ve already written about how the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) could be a valuable source of antibiotics(see LSS 27 10 20) Who knows what may be waiting to be tapped, to our benefit, in the last unspoiled areas? The frantic, almost neurotic, search for short term profit puts all of this at risk. Time for a different model, we think.



#habitat destruction #antibiotics #antifungals #ants #health #medicine

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