Ants May Hold Our Future in Their Exoskeletons

Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat to the human population. Scientists are on the search for new ways to fight this growing threat. In march the ants. A new study published in theĀ Royal Society Open Science journal found that “not only do ants produce their own antimicrobial agents, but they can also encourage other beneficial microbes to grow.” Ants are a lot like us, or so the scientists claim:

Like humans, the more than 12,000 species of ants are all highly social. This behaviour increases the chance that they come into to contact with germs. Comparable to our towns and cities, ant colonies take communal living to the next level, with up to tens of millions of individuals cohabiting in a single nest.

First of all, 12,000 species of ants?! That thought alone is enough to kill my appetite, which is a feat in and of itself. And the phrase “tens of millions” of ants is definitely going to seep into a nightmare for me one day. Regardless, scientists say that:

Millions of years of evolution in a high-risk environment have made ants a potential source of vital antimicrobials…This adds to the idea that ants could well be a good source of new antibiotics…

For example, researchers recently discovered a bacterium living among one ant species that produces compounds capable of killing harmful bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotics, including the common superbug MRSA.

Experts hope these substances could be turned into drugs that would be tested in human trials, a potential major breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic resistance. In light of this information, I’m willing to look just a little more kindly at the ant infestations my apartment suffers in the summer months, but just barely.