Study Sheds New Light on Antibiotics Produced by Ants

For immediate release ‐ February 06, 2018

Contact: Adrian Smith, 919.707.8095 and Matt Shipman, NCSU news services, 919.515.6386. Images available upon request

Solenopsis xyloni ant by Clint Penick. This photo shows foragers of the desert fire ant, Solenopsis xyloni, collecting flower nectar. A recent study finds that ants in this genus produce some of the strongest antimicrobials measured in social insects. Photo credit: Clint Penick.

Ants, like humans, deal with disease. To deal with the bacteria that cause some of these diseases, some ants produce their own antibiotics. A new comparative study identified some ant species that make use of powerful antimicrobial agents – but found that 40 percent of ant species tested didn’t appear to produce antibiotics. All of this has applications regarding the search for new antibiotics that can be used in humans.

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