More Ant Medicine: Two Treatment Approaches

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 20 February 2018


More Ant Medicine

Two Treatment Approaches

Helping in spite of risk: Ants perform risk-averse sanitary care of infectious nest mates,
Institute of Science and Technology Austria, February 20, 2018.

The Problem and the Solutions
"...the species Lasius neglectus fend off the pathogenic fungus Metarhizium by intensively cleaning and caring for colony members whose bodies have been contaminated by fungal spores."

"There are two ways for ants to care for nest mates: either by grooming off pathogens or by chemically disinfecting them."

Secondary Infection Induced Immunity
" between contaminated and caring ants during care may lead to a transmission of the pathogen, which often induces low-level infections in the caring individual that do not cause disease."

"...such low-level infections of the caring ants stimulate their immune system and can lead to a protective effect against future infection, similar to the early form of vaccination used by humans, termed variolation."

"...ants with low-level infections are more susceptible to superinfections, the researchers show that this altered disease susceptibility affects how ants care for their infectious nest mates."

Two Medicinal Approaches depending on Immune Status

"If an ant is protected against a pathogen because it is currently immunized, it grooms the infected nestmate more than non-immunized ants."

"If the ant has developed a susceptibility to pathogen B due to a previous infection with pathogen A, then it sprays the contaminated nestmate carrying pathogen B with formic acid to neutralize the pathogen. This avoids the need for grooming and the close contact that comes with it, preventing pathogen transmission and protecting the caring ant from superinfection."


Another Very Different Ant Medicine Strategy...
Deadly disinfection in ant colonies






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