How fungus-farming ants could help solve our antibiotic resistance problem
For the last 60 million years, fungus-growing ants have farmed fungi for food. In their cultivation of those fungi, they've successfully relied on bacteria-produced antimicrobial ingredients to protect their crops from other species of parasitic fungi. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution say they are looking to these ants to find new ways to stop or slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance that now presents a major threat to modern medicine.
"Somehow the ant-bacteria alliance seems to have been able to sidestep the problem of antibiotic resistance," says Massimiliano Marvasi of the Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy. "This led us to hypothesize that the application of potent cocktails of continually evolving variants of antimicrobial compounds was the most likely model by which to explain this dynamic."