New antibiotic extracted from Kenyan ant inhibits MRSA, VRE

An antibiotic substance created by bacteria found on a species of African ant native to Kenya inhibits the growth of vancomycin-resistant Enterococci and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, according to a new study published in the journal Chemical Science.

The bacteria — isolated from the African fungus-growing plant-ant Tetraponera penzigi — has been dubbed Streptomyces formica. Researchers came across the bacteria while testing bacterial strains from the acacia plant, which houses the ants. In a laboratory setting, the bacteria produced molecular components that inhibit MRSA and VRE, which researchers named formicamycins after the Latin word formica, meaning ant.

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The researchers tested lower concentrations of formicamycins against the infection-causing bacteria strains to assess whether resistance would develop. No signs of resistance were detected.

"Our findings highlight the importance of searching as-yet under-explored environments, which, when combined with recent advances in genome sequencing and editing, enables the discovery of new species making natural product antibiotics, which could prove invaluable in the fight against antimicrobial resistance," said study author Barrie Wilkinson, PhD, a project leader in molecular microbiology at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England.

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