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Researchers discover new antibiotic in African ant
petri dish
The new species is a member of the Streptomycin bacteria family.
Tests show antibiotic is highly-effective against MRSA

Researchers have discovered a new species of antibiotic, produced by the bacteria of an African ant, that is highly effective against MRSA.

The finding, published in the journal Chemical Science, was made by scientists at the University of East Anglia and the John Innes Centre.

The new species is a member of the Streptomycin bacteria family and was discovered on the African fungus-growing plant-ant, Tertraponera penzigi.

Tests show that the antibiotic is potent against antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs' such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE).

Professor Wilkinson from the John Innes Centre commented: “Our finding highlights the importance of searching as-yet under-expired 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 AMR.”

Currently, nearly all of the antibiotics in use originate from a group of bacteria called actinomycetes. This bacteria was isolated from soil between 40 and 80 years ago, in what is known as the ‘golden age’ of antibiotic discovery.

Since then, inappropriate use of these antibiotics has led to widespread antimicrobial resistance where disease-causing bacteria have become resistant to some of these antibiotics.

“We have been exploring the chemical ecology of protective symbioses formed between antibiotic-producing bacteria and fungus-growing insects to better understand how these associations are formed and explore them as a new source of anti-infective drugs,” said Prof Matt Hutchings from the University of East Anglia.

“Kenyan plant-ants live in symbiosis with thorny acacia trees. They live and breed in domatia - which are hollowed out structures which the plant evolved to house them - and grow fungus in them for food. In return, they protect the plants from large herbivores including elephants, which won't eat plants covered in ants.”

The antibiotic has been named ‘streptomyces formicae,’ and the antibiotics formicamycins, after the latin formica, meaning ant.

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Huge spike in ‘designer’ dogs going into rescue

News Story 1
 The RSPCA has reported a huge spike in the number of ‘designer’ dogs arriving into its care.

Figures published by the charity show there has been a 517 per cent increase in the number of French bulldogs arriving into its kennels. During that time, the charity has also seen an increase in dachshunds, chihuahuas, and crossbreeds.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said: “We know that the breeds of dog coming into our care often reflect the trends in dog ownership in the wider world and, at the moment, it doesn’t get more trendy than ‘designer’ dogs like French bulldogs and Dachshunds."


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New shearing guidance for farmers and contractors

Industry bodies have produced guidance for farmers and contractors on how to handle sheep during shearing to avoid stress and injury.

The guidance includes every step - from the presentation of sheep and facilities for shearing, through to using a contractor and shearers - and aims to ensure shearing is carried out safely, efficiently and with high standards of animal welfare.

Guide co-author Jill Hewitt from the NAAC said: “Shearing is a professional job that takes significant skill. Shearers take their responsibility to protect animal welfare very seriously and it will be a positive step to remind everyone of the importance of working together.’