Crop Biotech Update

Study Probes How Organisms Evolved Diverse Mechanisms

May 11, 2012

Lasius neglectus ants were studied by two scientists from the Immunity and Infection Research at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and from Stanford University in the United States to determine how organisms transfer immunity between related individuals and to discriminate between pathogens. The study published in the journal PloS Biology described that ants covered with lethal doses of the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae were allowed to interact with nest mates who then become exposed to low doses of the pathogen to induce specific anti-fungal immune function.

Various approaches were used by the scientists to identify the mechanisms underlying social immunization in ant colonies: mathematical modeling; and behavioral, microbiological, immunological, and molecular techniques to come up with a concrete proof of concept that group-level immunity may be experimentally manipulated and modeled.

Through this study and further scrutiny of social immunity at a system level in insects, emergent properties that have been missing in the humans can be elucidated.

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