CJAMY. Camille Gaubert’s column is broadcast daily on the “C Jamy” program, hosted by Jamy Gourmaud Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. France 5.
Antibiotics are certainly not automatic, but by 2050 ours may no longer be effective … So bacterial infections could become one of the most important causes of death. Faced with an imminent threat, some scientists are turning to a social insect that has proven to know how to manage the effective use of antibiotics over millions of years: ants.
Antibiotic resistance could kill more people in 2050 from cancer or heart disease
In the fight against bacteria, ants are even more expert than us. Antibiotics have been used for more than 100 million years, while humans have come close to making them ineffective in just 80 years. Because of the non-selective use of our antibiotics since the 1940s, bacteria have become resistant. So much so that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), bacterial infections could become the leading cause of death by 2050, ahead of cancer and heart disease. Faced with this imminent catastrophe, scientists have wondered what the secret to the success of antibiotics used by ants that, like all social insects, live in dense groups within which infections circulate easily.
Three antibiotic strategies of ants
The first strategy of ants: almost all species produce antibacterial substances in glands called “metapleural glands,” located in the back of the chest or in the lower jaws. These substances are also so acidic that they destroy both viruses and fungi! On In one study, 20 species of ants were examined published in 2018 in a journal Open Science of the Royal Society, “thief ant (Solenopsis molesta) had the strongest antibiotic effect among those we tested“explained Adrian Smith, co – author of the study.
Another strategy of ants: they associate with fungi that kill bacteria. For example, a species of leaf-cutting ant cultivates a fungus that produces an effective antibiotic, especially against antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. For example, the secretions of ant fungi Atta sexdens reach a pH of 2.5, very acidic, illustrates myrmecologist Luc Passera, retired from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, in his book How ants defend themselves from microbial or fungal infections in 2019
The third strategy of ants: they differentiate antibiotics. This is because bacteria develop resistance only if they are often exposed to the same substances. Some fungi that are ant partners can vary the main molecule of their antibiotic so little that bacteria do not have a chance to find an answer.
Finally, for ants, the collective is important first and foremost. Instead of completely killing bacteria to protect everyone and thus increase the selection pressure that would cause resistance, they are therefore content to regulate them to an acceptable level for life … Even if it means that some people die from it. infection on the road. The last strategy that probably won’t be of much help to people.