LONG BEFORE HOSPITALS, BEFORE HUMANS, EVEN BEFORE THE DAWN OF MULTICELLULAR LIFE, BACTERIA WERE COMING UP WITH WAYS TO OUTSMART ANTIBIOTICS.
Some of earth's earliest infection-control practitioners didn't wear starched white coats and carry stethoscopes. They didn't even have lungs or an internal skeleton.
Scuttling about on six legs in a moist and balmy Eocene rainforest, their "chests" emblazoned with fuzzy white patches of antibiotic-producing bacteria, attine (fungus-farming) ants long ago learned how to exploit this natural antibiotic producer to keep their fungus farms free of a pesky "weed" fungus – some 50 million years ago.
While these ants are among the earliest examples of land animals using antibiotics, antibiotic production itself is even more ancient – stretching back to the dawn of bacterial life on Earth, about three billion years ago. continued..
WRITTEN BY MELISSA MARINO
PHOTOGRAPH OF STREPTOMYCES
© DAVID SCHARF PHOTOGRAPHY