New Antifungal Compound Discovered in Ant Farms

New Antifungal Compound Discovered in Ant Farms

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Attine ants are a group of several ant species known as farmers because they grow their own food. Each member of the colony has a job on the farm. Harvester ants cut grasses and leaves and foragers carry the harvested vegetation back to the nest. There, worker ants cut the vegetation into smaller pieces and crush the fragments into damp pellets. Another team of workers plucks small strands of fungus from a stockpile and plants them into the pellets, which act as a soil in which the fungi can grow. This process provides the ants with a fungi farm and a renewable food source.

Attine ants are at risk of illness and death if the fungus that they grow for food is contaminated by pathogenic fungal strains. Luckily, the ants are coated in a symbiotic bacteria called Pseudonocardia and Streptomyces. These bacteria are transferred from the ants’ bodies to the crop where they produce potent small molecules that prevent the growth of disease-causing fungi amongst the food fungi.

Scientists collected several of these specialized metabolites from ant colonies in order to investigate them further in the lab. They found that one molecule, which they named attinimicin, is just as effective as azole-containing treatments at fighting yeast infections in mice caused by Candida albicans. This suggests the compound may be a promising drug candidate for clinical development as an antifungal agent. Further studies are planned to determine its mechanism of action.

TransPharm Preclinical Solutions has validated multiple strains of C. albicans, as well as other fungi such as Aspergillus fumigatus and Cryptococcus neoformans, in mouse models of infections such as fungemia, peritonitis, and dermal, intracranial, and pulmonary infections. Additional validations are available upon request. To learn more, contact us for a complimentary consultation or a free, no-obligation quote.

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