Could ants hold key to new antibiotic development?

Could ants hold key to new antibiotic development?

Pharmacists will no doubt have experience of the issue of antibiotic resistance and lack of new medicines, particularly if they work in a hospital prescribing environment.
 
However, research has discovered a new avenue from which a fresh range of antibiotics could come - the insect world.
 
A team at North Carolina State University knew that some species of ant are able to produce their own compounds to deal with bacteria, so they tested the antimicrobial properties of 20 species.
 
This was done using a solvent to remove the substances on each ant's body, then placing that solution into a bacterial slurry. If bacteria in a slurry with ant solution grew less than in a control group, the researchers inferred that an antimicrobial agent was present.
 
It was found that 12 out of the 20 ant species tested had some sort of antimicrobial agent, including species that were not previously thought to possess any, while eight species demonstrated no evidence of antibiotics. The thief ant was found to have the most powerful antibiotic effects.
 
Clint Penick, co-author of the study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, said: "These findings suggest that ants could be a future source of new antibiotics to help fight human diseases."
 
The fact that some ants to not produce antimicrobial agents could lead to the discovery of new methods of preventing infection that do not rely on antimicrobial agents, he added.
 
Next, the team will refine their search for promising species and also test the insects with more types of bacteria to determine what substances have an effect on microbes and where the ants are getting them from.
 
New methods of developing antibiotics are likely to be crucial in the coming years, as the number of such medicines becoming available has declined dramatically since 2000, the Access to Medicine Foundation states.
 
In Europe, some 25,000 people a year die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, largely due to over-prescription and use in the agricultural industry.
 
E. coli in children is the latest bug found to be demonstrating high levels of resistance to antibiotics following a study the University of Bristol and Imperial College London.