Infected ants communicate with certain species when they infect a wound. Then they produce a substance that resists bacterial infections and viruses. This substance is very effective: about 90 percent of ants survived injuries.
The African ant produces the substance in a cyst-like gland in the chest cavity. When “ant doctors” care for the wounded, they take the substance from the gland with their feet and take it into their mouths. Licking the wound, they apply the substance.
This method of wound healing was also seen in ants of the genus Eciton from Central and South America. They hunt longer than African ants and so these ants treat the wounded immediately.
Chimpanzees indirectly benefit from this antibacterial agent by chewing on the ants and then applying their saliva to the wounds of their young.
Until now, only humans were thought to be able to diagnose infection and then treat wounds with antimicrobials. Research into this wound healing method is still ongoing. Discoveries potentially useful for human medicine can also be made.
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