- A new antibiotic from Kenyan ants is discovered by a research team from University of East Anglia.
- The antibiotic was found to
be potent against Methicillin
resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Potential for use against antibiotic
bacteria, termed superbugs, methicillin resistant
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
now can be treated
with a potent antibiotic which was discovered from an unlikely source- bacteria
that are found on ants! The study titled 'Formicamycins, antibacterial
polyketides produced by Streptomyces formicae isolated from African Tetreponera
plant-ants' was published in the journal Chemical
research team from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has identified a species
of the Streptomyces bacteria family, which was isolated from, Tetraponera
penzigi, the African fungus-growing plant-ant. The new species has been named Streptomyces formica,
antibiotic obtained from it is called formicamycins, which is latin for ant.
‘Newly discovered antibiotic from Kenyan ants holds promise of improved care for patients infected with antibiotic resistant strains of microbes.’
Potent against Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
latest laboratory tests which were conducted on the newly identified
antibiotics have shown that they are effective even against
- Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE)
- Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
bacteria are known to cause severe life-threatening conditions as they cannot
be controlled by the use of antibiotics.
currently used antibiotics are derived from the group of bacteria called
actinomycetes which were identified in the soil nearly half a century ago. That
period is known as the Golden age of antibiotics.
indiscriminate use of antibiotics has resulted in antimicrobial resistance
(AMR), a condition in which the infective bacteria fails to respond to
antibiotic therapy due to evolved mechanisms of resistance.
to Dr. Matt Hutchings from University of East Anglia, the chemical ecology
formed between bacteria that produce antibiotics and insects that grow fungus,
a protective symbiosis, is a key area of study that will aid in identifying a
new source of anti-infective drugs. An example of this relationship is the
Kenyan plant-ants which exist in symbiosis with acacia trees. These ants are
found to live in the hollowed structures of the thorny tree while growing
fungus in the trees feed the ants. This relationship is equally beneficial to
the tree as animals, including elephants, will not eat plants when they are covered
growing resistance to antibiotic therapy threatens treatment and prevention of
infections that were caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites as well as fungi.
This is a serious global threat which has called for action of leading
government and non-government organizations across the world.
the absence of an effective antibiotic therapy, surgeries and chemotherapy for
cancer are compromised. There are additional medical costs incurred due to the
added hospitalization costs and treatment.
leads to 480,000
people developing tuberculosis which is multi drug resistant. Apart from TB,
antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria threaten to affect therapy for AIDS as
well as malaria.
The resistance to antibiotics is
developed when the microbes are exposed excessively to these antimicrobial
agents. These strains are sometimes termed superbugs. Due to the development of
- the drugs that are used for therapy become ineffective
- the strains of microbes spread rapidly
- inability to treat even common infections
- prolonged illness, disability or death of the patients
- organ transplant, caesarean sections, hip replacements,
management of diabetes or even cancer chemotherapy are high-risk
procedures due to the risk of infection of these microbes
Actinomycete Bacterial Strains
strains of actinomycetes were isolated form the acacia plant in which the ants
lived. A few among these were selected for gene sequencing. Out of all the
strains that were sequenced, the research team found that there was
- A specific strain of actinomycetes that produced
antibiotic compounds with the ability to fight other diseases in the
initial tests that were conducted.
Hutchings further stated that the formicamycins that were tested against the
isolates of vancomycin-resistant Enteroccocus faecium and methicillin resistant
Staphylococcus aureus were found to be very potent against these organisms.
Validation of the Result
The tests were repeated by growing the
strains in very low and sub-inhibitory concentrations of formicamycins for 20
generations. The research team found no signs of higher level of resistance to
the newly identified antibiotics.
from John Innes Centre said that the findings of the study signify the importance
of identifying newer territories for effective antibiotics. The latest
advancements in sequencing and genomic editing tools could be used to identify
the unidentified species of bacteria that produce natural antibiotics. This,
according to the professor, will be precious in the fight against antibiotic
is an urgent need to identify solutions for antibiotic resistant bacterial
strains as they can lead to serious health complications due to uncontrolled
spread. The newly discovered antibiotic promises to control the spread of these
microbes, offering hope to many people at high risk.
- Zhiwei Qin, John T Munnoch, Rebecca Devine, Neil A Holmes, Ryan Seipke, Karl A Wilkinson, Barrie Wilkinson, Matthew Hutchings. Formicamycins, antibacterial polyketides produced by Streptomyces formicae isolated from African Tetraponera plant-ants. Chem. Sci., 2017; DOI: 10.1039/C6SC04265A
- Antimicrobial resistance - (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/)