Fungus-Farming Ants Might Hold the Secret to Fighting Drug-Resistant Microbes
Fungus-Farming Ants Might Hold the Secret to Fighting Drug-Resistant Microbes

In 2017, a girl in Nevada expired from a rather common bacterial disease, Klebsiella pneumonia. Her departure was not the product of health supervision or inattention; instead, it arrived. Her disease proved resistant to each antibiotic medication physicians withdrew it against, NPR reports. They finally exhausted 26 unique medications — that the bacteria were resistant to every single one.

Antibiotic resistance is high on scientists’ list of issues globally. The suggested options are many, and they come from unexpected places. Case in point: One group of scientists in Europe says we ought to appear to the rodents.

It is not so far-fetched. Several species of ant harbor symbiotic bacteria that make fungus-killing antifungal compounds. This connection has held for centuries, along with the fungal invaders have yet to create a resistance to the chemicals. People, in contrast, have observed immunity develop in only decades.


The issue of antibiotic resistance is increasing, both from the U.S. and worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, estimates that two million Americans get disease resistant to one sort of antibiotic each year. Some 23,000 of these perish from it.

The crux of the problem is a natural choice. Compounds will gradually evolve the capability to fight drugs intended to kill them rendering useless yet another weapon in our health care arsenal.

However, this is the place where the ants arrive in. Looking at a bunch of rodents that harvest fungi, the investigators say they have discovered a smart strategy to prevent resistance.

1 special”tribe” of rodents, known as attine ants, have farmed particular species of fungi to get food for countless years — provided that since the 2 species have increased evolutionarily determined by one another. However, their plants are prone to invasions by other species of competitive parasites that may kill their food resources. To combat, the rodents trust the Pseudonocardia and Streptomyces germs that reside together and that create antifungal chemicals. This connection has held for millennia, and the fungi have become immune.

Keep It New

The key, the investigators say, is that the bacteria really make many slightly different variations of their antifungal compounds. All of them work, but they are just different enough that the invading fungi are not able to develop resistance to each one. And the chemicals are continuously evolving over the years, managing to remain just different enough to prevent resistance while still being capable of controlling the parasites.

That is compared to human-made antibiotic chemicals, which are exactly the exact same and thus a lot easier to develop resistance. The findings indicate that one alternative to our present antibiotic catastrophe may be learning to change our medication only enough that invasive germs can not get a deal on them.

The authors do point out that ants’ goals are a bit different than ours when it comes to combat microbes. The rodents desire simply to restrain the development of fungi, as opposed to removing them as we do use pathogens.

Along with the rodents have more leeway using various compounds than individuals.

“Ultimately, and the attunes don’t have any ethical limitations,” the authors write in their own study. “Not all people involved with this arms race has to endure.”

However, their mix-and-match strategy gives a not-so-subtle sign at a new way of preventing antimicrobial resistance in the world. Sometimes, all you require is a little something different.


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