Social insects protect their colonies from infectious disease through collective defences that result in social immunity. In ants, workers first try to prevent infection of colony members. Here, we show that if this fails and a pathogen establishes an infection, ants employ an efficient multicomponent behaviour − "destructive disinfection" − to prevent further spread of disease through the colony. Ants specifically target infected pupae during the pathogen's non-contagious incubation period, relying on chemical 'sickness cues' emitted by pupae. They then remove the pupal cocoon, perforate its cuticle and administer antimicrobial poison, which enters the body and prevents pathogen replication from the inside out. Like the immune system of a body that specifically targets and eliminates infected cells, this social immunity measure sacrifices infected brood to stop the pathogen completing its lifecycle, thus protecting the rest of the colony. Hence, the same principles of disease defence apply at different levels of biological organisation.
Pull C, Ugelvig LV, Wiesenhofer F, et al. Destructive disinfection of infected brood prevents systemic disease spread in ant colonies. eLife. 2018;7. doi:10.7554/eLife.32073
Pull, C., Ugelvig, L. V., Wiesenhofer, F., Grasse, A. V., Tragust, S., Schmitt, T., … Cremer, S. (2018). Destructive disinfection of infected brood prevents systemic disease spread in ant colonies. ELife, 7. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.32073
Pull, Christopher, Line V Ugelvig, Florian Wiesenhofer, Anna V Grasse, Simon Tragust, Thomas Schmitt, Mark Brown, and Sylvia Cremer. “Destructive Disinfection of Infected Brood Prevents Systemic Disease Spread in Ant Colonies.” ELife 7 (2018). https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.32073.
C. Pull et al., “Destructive disinfection of infected brood prevents systemic disease spread in ant colonies,” eLife, vol. 7, 2018.
Pull C, Ugelvig LV, Wiesenhofer F, Grasse AV, Tragust S, Schmitt T, Brown M, Cremer S. 2018. Destructive disinfection of infected brood prevents systemic disease spread in ant colonies. eLife. 7.
Pull, Christopher, et al. “Destructive Disinfection of Infected Brood Prevents Systemic Disease Spread in Ant Colonies.” ELife, vol. 7, e32073, eLife Sciences Publications, 2018, doi:10.7554/eLife.32073.
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