Courtesy of Alexander Wild / University of Wisconsin
No one wants a cockroach in their house. But before you beat the undesirable fraudster, consider this: that six-foot critter may one day save your life.
That's right. Insects that have long been known to spread the disease-may potentially help them cure. Or rather, the microbes that live within them can be. Scientists have discovered dozens of microorganisms living in or in insects that make antimicrobial compounds, some of which can have the key to generating new antibiotic drugs.
They can not come soon. More infections are becoming resistant to common antibiotics, and the pipeline of new antibiotic drugs has slowed down in a drop.
"There is growing demand [for antibiotics] and a small supply," explains Gerry Wright, managing Michael G DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University.
Most antibiotic drugs have been discovered from bacteria that live on the ground. But Cameron Currie, professor of bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said finding ground for new antibiotics has become increasingly useless. "
" they continue to find known antibiotics, "says Currie." There is a common feeling that the wells of antibiotics from the ground … are dry. "
Fortunately, there may be another Currie and a group of 28 researchers recently published a paper on Nature Communications showing that some of the bacteria living in insects are really good at killing harmful germs
"There are approximately 10 million species [of insect] on the planet," says Currie. "That implies a great potential for many new compounds [antibiotic]."
Each insect contains a whole ecosystem of microorganisms, such as microbiomes found in humans. And there is a quality that many of the insect-related germs are common, says Jonat han Klassen, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut and a study author.
They do not get along with each other very well.
And by not compromising, he means they are continually trying to kill one by means of biochemical warfare. Many microorganisms in insects produce compounds that are toxic to other microbes-important, natural antibiotics.
Some of the natural antibiotics attracted Currie's attention as she was a student, searching for cuttings of ants.
the most prosperous nature gardeners. They really do not eat the leaves they cut – they instead use them to cultivate a special kind of fungus for food. However, it is not easy to become a farmer of the fungus.
"Like human farming, ants have a disease problem," Currie says. "I found a specialized pathogen attacking their fungus garden."
Fortunately, ants have tools to deal with the problem. One type of bacterium that lives in the exoskeleton of ants produces a poison that kills the pathogen. Like pesticides used by gardener, the poison retains the nocturnal garden of ants.
The discovery inspired Currie's curiosity. If ants can use the bacterial compounds to treat the disease in their fungus gardens, can doctors use them to treat people's illness? If so, what other insects can bring germs against the disease?
In order to answer those questions, Currie and her team spent years collecting thousands of insects, including cockroaches, from Alaska to Brazil.
"Every few months someone is going somewhere to collect something," remembers Klassen, working on time as postdoctoral researcher on the project.
The team tested the bacteria from each insect to find out if they could kill common pathogens, such as E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ). They then compare the results from strains of bacterial insects to strains obtained from plants and land.
"It's really surprising that [insect strains] is not just as good, but it seems better to forbid [pathogens]," Currie says.  Testing a new antibiotic
Once the scientist discovered that a bacterial strain could kill germs, the next step in drug development is to determine which bacterial compound is responsible for in the activity of antimicrobial brew seeking a secret ingredient in a particularly delicious soup.
The Currie team has found dozens of healthful bacteria in insects. And each one can provide a secret ingredient that can be a new antibiotic compound.
That was a great achievement. But researchers continue one step. They laid down a compound from a particular promising bacterial strain and demonstrated that it could withstand fungal infections in mice, an important step in drug development.
The compound, cyphomycin, is found in Brazilian fungus-farming ants, close relatives of Currie ants who study as a PhD student. Although it is far from being an approved drug, research shows that antibiotic compounds before science can be isolated from insects.
Wright, an antibiotic researcher who did not participate in the study, said that previous research showed that a single type of insect contained antimicrobial compounds. But this is the first study to show that insects as a group are a promising source of new antimicrobials.
"No one has done something in this size before," Wright explains.
Currie believes that cyphomycin may be day approved for treating yeast infections in humans. But before that happens, it should go through the years of further testing.
"It [cyphomycin] is a million miles away [from approval]," Wright said. "That's the truth of drug discovery."
However, Wright said that researchers have overcome one of the most difficult barriers to drug development by showing that the compound works on rats.
For Klassen, stakes are too high
"Efforts like this study are very important to keep the antibiotic flow flowing so that the pain does not get higher hands," he says.
Finally, the consequences of a world without antibiotics are enough to find scientists for new drugs in unconventional areas-even if it means looking at a cockroach.
Paul Chisholm is a freelance science writer in Rapid City, SD You can reach him on Twitter: @PaulJChisholm .