Antibiotic disrupts termite microflora, reducing fertility, longevity

Jul 19, 2011

The microbial flora of the termite gut are necessary both for cellulose digestion and normal reproduction, and feeding the insects antibiotics can interfere in these processes, according to a paper in the July issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“New and effective technologies for the control of social insect pests may be devised as a result of this work,” says corresponding author Rebeca B. Rosengaus of Northeastern University, Boston, MA.
 
In this study, the researchers fed wood and the antibiotic rifampin to an experimental group of termite queens and kings, while feeding wood and water to a control group. The antibiotic treatment permanently reduced the diversity of the microbiota. Although antibiotic-fed queens and kings suffer higher mortality than their control counterparts, the authors do not believe the mortality was due to malnutrition or starvation. Surviving antibiotic-fed queens and kings had reduced rates of oviposition, which resulted in delayed colony growth, and reduced colony fitness. “These results point to the potential for using to control termites and/or other insect pests, while reducing the need to attack them with toxic pesticides,” says Rosengaus.
 
In the paper, the researchers speculate that rifampin reduces fertility and longevity by disrupting mutualistic bacterial partnerships within the hosts. “Given the long coevolutionary history between the gut symbionts and termites, it is likely that these social accrue additional benefits from their microbiota that are unrelated to cellulolytic activity,” they write, noting that in other insects, gut symbionts are known to help in “…detoxification, mediation of disease resistance and immune function, production of volatile compounds that are coopted to function as aggregation or kin recognition pheromones and defensive secretions, and performance of atmospheric nitrogen fixation.”
 
Besides the possibility that the research will lead to methods for curbing termites and other social , it may illuminate the co-evolutionary history of an ancient relationship, says Rosengaus. “These host-microbial interactions likely influence the evolution of multiple life history traits of hosts, including their longevity, behavior, reproductive biology, immunity, and perhaps even the evolution and maintenance of their sociality,” she says.
 
The work might even have relevance to human physiology, says Rosengaus. Hundreds of species of microbe inhabit the human gut, and researchers are beginning to show how the compounds these microbes produce influence our physiology. “Understanding the possible impacts that these microbes have on the physiology of insects—a more tractable animal model—we can make inferences about the multiple roles that human gut microbes have on our physiology,” says Rosengaus. 

Explore further: The malaria pathogen's cellular skeleton under a super-microscope

More information: R.B. Rosengaus, et al., 2011. Disruption of the termite gut microbiota and its prolongued consequences for fitness. Appl. Environ. Micriobiol. 77:4303-4312

Provided by American Society for Microbiology

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Antibiotics disrupt gut ecology, metabolism

Apr 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans carry several pounds of microbes in our gastro-intestinal tracts. Recent research suggests that this microbial ecosystem plays a variety of critical roles in our health. Now, working in a mouse model, ...

Critter control, au natural

Aug 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It’s surprising how much havoc the tiny termite can wreak. Each year infestations of these insects cause an estimated $30 billion in damage to buildings and crops nationwide. Historically, ...

Antibiotics have long-term impacts on gut flora

Nov 01, 2010

Short courses of antibiotics can leave normal gut bacteria harbouring antibiotic resistance genes for up to two years after treatment, say scientists writing in the latest issue of Microbiology, published on 3 November.

Recommended for you

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

16 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

Rapid and accurate mRNA detection in plant tissues

17 hours ago

Gene expression is the process whereby the genetic information of DNA is used to manufacture functional products, such as proteins, which have numerous different functions in living organisms. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

Apr 16, 2014

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.