Ants could help in medical battle against superbugs 螞蟻有助對抗超級細菌
Scientists have pinpointed a promising new source of antibiotics：ants. They have found that some species - including leaf-cutter ants from the Amazon - use bacteria to defend their nests against invading fungi and microbes.
Chemicals excreted by the bacteria as part of this fight have been shown to have particularly powerful antibiotic effects and researchers are now preparing to test them in animals to determine their potential as medicines for humans.
Researchers say new antibiotics are urgently needed as superbug resistance to standard antimicrobial agents spreads. More than 700,000 people globally now die of drug-resistant infections each year, it is estimated - and some health officials say this figure could be even higher.
This was reiterated by Professor Cameron Currie, one of the scientists involved in the ant research. "Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem," he said last week. "However, pinpointing new antibiotics using the standard technique of sampling soil for bacteria is tricky. On average, only one in a million strains proves promising. By contrast, we have uncovered a promising strain of bacteria for every 15 strains we have sampled from an ant’s nest."