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Leafcutter ants and their antibiotics at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2014

4d ago
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Leafcutter ants and their antibiotics exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2014. Dr Matt Hutchings, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia. Our exhibit will explain the origins of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes using leafcutter ant colonies as a model and we will also explain where the next generation of antibiotics will come from. Two thirds of the antibiotics and anticancer compounds used in medicine are derived from the natural products of soil-dwelling actinomycete bacteria. Remarkably, leafcutter ants house symbiotic actinomycete bacteria on their cuticles and use their antibiotics to protect themselves and their fungus gardens. The fungus is nourished with foraged leaf material and then used to feed the ant larvae and queen. The ants have been using antibiotics to grow their fungus for 50 million years. The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2014 was held 1-6 July 2014 at the Royal Society in London. Find out more: http://sse.royalsociety.org/2014/