Health Desk: 07 February 2018: It has come to light that ants produce their own antibiotics to deal with diseases that can be used to treat humans as well.
According to a new study, to deal with the bacteria that cause diseases, some ants produce their own antibiotics.
The North Carolina State University-led study identified that some ant species make use of powerful antimicrobial agents. However, it also found that 40 percent of ant species tested didn't appear to produce antibiotics.
The study has applications regarding the search for new antibiotics that can be used in humans, according to Clint Penick, lead author of the study.
"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 Adrian Smith, co-author of the paper.
For this study, researchers tested the antimicrobial properties associated with 20 ant species. They did this by using a solvent to remove all of the substances on the surface of each ant's body. The resulting solution was then introduced to a bacterial slurry. The growth of the bacteria in the slurry was then compared to the growth of bacteria in a control group.
The researchers found that 12 of the 20 ant species had some sort of antimicrobial agent on their exoskeletons - including some species, like the thief ant, that hadn't previously been shown to do so.
But eight of the ant species seemed not to make use of antibiotics at all. Or, at least, any antimicrobials on their exoskeletons were ineffective against the bacteria used in the study.
The study is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.