Ant Germ Killer Kills Superbugs

Emilio Lee, Photo Editor

   Microorganisms: they are one of the oldest forms of life on Earth and have been here since the beginning when our planet was just another floating rock in the stars. But as time goes on, microorganisms have adapted to the environment like all life. Some of them have adapted so they could live on the hottest deserts and survive the coldest arctics. But mind you, not all microorganisms are good, like the Escovopsis.

   The Escovopsis is a genus of seven formally acknowledged parasitic microfungus species that live off of other living fungi. “What is so special about this parasite?” one may ask. It’s not the fungus that actually matters, but the thing that’s fighting it: Ants.

   Besides being the most common cause of home infestation and the poster-boy of ruining a picnic, they are most notably known as workers and farmers of fungus. Fungus usually grows in dark and moist places, usually feeding off of nutrients from dead things, and the ants, like all farmers, give what their crops need in order to grow and flourish. Then they use the fungus to grow into dense webs, and they use those webs to feed their young.

   But like any farm, there are usually a few technical issues. These ants face one major problem: the parasitic microfungus Escovopsis. This fungus grows on other fungus and ruins the fungus it has infected, effectively destroying the ants’ crops. However, ants are finding ways to combat this killer of their resources. Ants do this by coating the eggs with certain strains of bacteria. Then the bacteria grows along with the ant, feeding off the ants’ personal supply of bacteria with secretions from glands on its thorax. And as a thank you gift, the bacteria make powerful antimicrobials that kill Escovopsis, but they also make a few other strains of bacteria in the process.

   “So, because we have this in common with ants, we similarly use antibiotics to treat infections in modern medicine that our body and the bacteria in our bodies don’t like; however, this bacteria we are fighting has started to develop resistance. Antibiotics have started to become obsolete as bacteria are starting to gain immunity to the effects of the drug. This mutant bacteria is called a ‘superbug’,” explained science teacher Jessica Donnelly. Like everything in life, whenever you are faced with something that can kill you or stop certain aspects of yourself, you usually try to find something to prevent it. But for some reason, this antibiotic that these ants have made is so effective that the Escovopsis is having a hard time making some countered measure for this antibiotic, according to Jessica Donnelly. It’s believed that scientists could use these ants’ “antibiotic” of sorts to solve this issue of the “superbug.”