Scientists Find Insects Around US Carrying Answer To Antibiotic Resistance

Insects may soon serve as new sources of infection protection that could help doctors fight antibiotic resistance, which already claimed tens of thousands of deaths, according to a new study.

The findings, published in Nature Communications, show that some insects from North and South America carry microorganisms more effective than soil bacteria, which are traditional sources of antibiotics. 

“The extreme diversity of insects presents untapped potential for drug discovery from their equally diverse microbial communities,” researchers said in the study. 

The findings come from the analysis of the Streptomyces class of bacteria found on over 1,400 insects across the U.S. Streptomyces is a common source of clinically used antibacterial and antifungal drugs. 

Researchers conducted more than 50,000 trials in the insect microbes to see how they could stop the growth of 24 different types of bacteria and fungi. Results show that the microbe found on the insects were more effective to prevent such growth than microbes isolated from soil and plants.

“The promise of insect-associated Streptomyces as a new source of antimicrobials has the potential to reinvigorate the stagnated antibacterial and antifungal discovery pipelines,” the researchers said.

In a separate experiment, the team identified a new antibiotic called cyphomycin, which also used microbe communities living on insects to fight fungi that are resistant to most other antibiotics. Researchers said that cyphomycin was effective to remove fungal infections with little effect on mice.

“Cyphomycin is an example of new chemistry from this innovative source,” the study states. “We see no evidence of toxicity in mouse studies of cyphomycin and animals exhibited no observed physical or behavioral changes, suggesting that the insect-Streptomyces cyphomycin is a more specific molecule than the soil-derived deplelides that are generally toxic to eukaryotes.”  

The team noted that further analysis is required to see the effects of insect microbes before the production of a new drug to fight antibiotic resistance. 

“The rapid emergence of antimicrobial resistance in bacterial and fungal pathogens is a public health crisis,” researches said. “To combat the continual emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens, there is a critical and constant need to discover new antimicrobial natural products.”