“Anty-Biotics” from the Tiniest Warriors of Planet Earth

40% of Ant species are capable of producing a powerful antimicrobial agent, a marvelous antidote that can be used in humans, to guard them against some of the life-threatening pathogens.


Ants are known to be the Tiniest Guardians of their miniature territory and like Humans, they also have to guard themselves against the pathogenic bacteria, which cause diseases. A new study led by Clint Penick, an Assistant professor at University of Arizona State University and Postdoctoral researcher Who is the lead author of the study at North Carolina State University, have tested and identified that around 40 % of Ant species are capable of producing a powerful antimicrobial agents. A marvellous antidote that can be used in humans, to guard them against some of the life-threatening pathogens.

“One species we looked at, the thief ant (Solenopsis molesta), had the most powerful antibiotic effect of any species we tested – and until now, no one had even shown that they made use of antimicrobials,” says Adrian Smith, co-author of the paper, an assistant research professor of biological sciences at NC State and head of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab.

Around 20 ant species were tested for studying the antimicrobial properties, and for this, a solvent was used to extract a solution excreted by the exoskeleton of these ants, which was then introduced to the bacterial slurry. The growth of the bacteria in an ant solution was compared to their counterparts in a control group, if their growth in theif ant ((Solenopsis molesta) solution was less than those in a control group, the tested antimicrobial was conferred to be effective against bacteria.

“We thought every ant species would produce at least some type of antimicrobial,” Penick says. “Instead, it seems like many species have found alternative ways to prevent infection that do not rely on antimicrobial chemicals.”

“For example, the thief ant is closely related to the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), which is well known for the antimicrobial properties of its venom. But in our study, we found that the thief ant was even more effective against bacteria than the fire ant. There may be other species in the same genus that are worth studying for their antimicrobial potency.”

Besides this groundbreaking discovery, Researchers, However, caution the limitation the present study pose. For instance, it is not yet known whether the same antimicrobial agent would work against other bacterial strains or not, whether Ants are the direct source of discovered antimicrobials or not?

“Next steps include testing ant species against other bacteria; determining what substances are producing the antibiotic effects – and whether ants produce them or obtain them elsewhere; and exploring what alternative strategies ants use to defend against bacterial pathogens,” Smith says.

Current Investment, alliances & Gobal Economic challenges:
At present many novel approaches are underway in tackling with the resurgence of antibiotic resistance. Some of the notable projects include CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria), a global collaboration between academia, industry and government is already taking on the search for new antibiotics against gram-negative bacteria getting funds of around $455 million from the Wellcome Trust and BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority). Antibiotic resistance breakers (ARB) which involves co-administering a non-antibiotic drug with a failing antibiotic. Besides all these innovations, a review in the Lancet said: “tackling antibiotic resistance needs investment somewhere between the Large Hadron Collider, which cost approximately £6 billion, and the International Space Station, which cost £96 billion”.

The Tiniest Warriors – potential beholders of Anti-microbial, Guarding Humans against life-threatening Pathogens:

If further screening on tested Ant species could provide us with a potent and broad-spectrum antimicrobials which could potentially wipe-out and combat both gram-positive as well as gram-negative bacteria in the near future to come, then this nature’s marvel offered by “The tiniest Warriors” could likely to cut-down a cost burden of Healthcare and Pharma Industries.


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