Scientists have noticed for the first time that insects themselves produce chemicals that they use to treat complex battle wounds.
It has long been known that some ants are capable of producing chemicals that have antibiotic properties. However, it was only recently that scientists first noticed that one species of ant not only produces these antibiotics, but also uses the chemical compounds to treat infected battle wounds of other members of its species, writes New Atlas.
We are talking about a species of Matabele ants (Megaponera analis), living in different regions of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Representatives of this species are known to feed exclusively on termites, which means that from time to time they have to raid nearby termite colonies. But these colonies are protected by soldier termites, which are far from defenseless and are capable of inflicting serious wounds on many invaders. If these wounds become infected, the injured insects will die.
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In a new study, an international team of researchers found that when such wounds become infected, the carbon profile of the ant’s hard exoskeleton changes in ways that other insects in the colony can notice. In response, the surrounding ants draw the antibiotic secretion from one of their metapleural glands, located on the sides of the chest, and then apply it to the wound using the lower jaw.
Scientists conducted laboratory tests and found that using a liquid antibiotic reduced mortality among infected ants by about 90%. What’s most intriguing is that one type of bacteria responsible for infections in ants, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is also often responsible for antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. As a result, scientists hope that antibiotics from ants can be used to treat humans in the future.
According to study co-author Dr. Eric Frank from Germany’s Julius Maximilian University in Würzburg, science knows of no other living creature other than humans capable of performing such complex wound treatment techniques.
Previously Focus wrote that scientists have counted how many ants live on Earth.