Targeted treatment of injured nestmates with antimicrobial compounds in an ant society.

  • publication
  • 02-01-2024

Frank ET, Kesner L, Liberti J, Helleu Q, LeBoeuf AC, Dascalu A, Sponsler DB, Azuma F, Economo EP, Waridel P, Engel P, Schmitt T, Keller L. Nat Commun 2023 Dec;14(1):8446. PMC10756881. 10.1038/s41467-023-43885-w. 10.1038/s41467-023-43885-w.

Infected wounds pose a major mortality risk in animals. Injuries are common in the ant Megaponera analis, which raids pugnacious prey. Here we show that M. analis can determine when wounds are infected and treat them accordingly. By applying a variety of antimicrobial compounds and proteins secreted from the metapleural gland to infected wounds, workers reduce the mortality of infected individuals by 90%. Chemical analyses showed that wound infection is associated with specific changes in the cuticular hydrocarbon profile, thereby likely allowing nestmates to diagnose the infection state of injured individuals and apply the appropriate antimicrobial treatment. This study demonstrates that M. analis ant societies use antimicrobial compounds produced in the metapleural glands to treat infected wounds and reduce nestmate mortality.

see on Pubmed