All living organisms can become ill from various pathogens. This is why every sort of organism that has ever existed possesses an immune system. It goes without saying that some animals are more apt to fall victim to certain pathogens than other animals. Some animals are unaffected by certain pathogens. Insects, for example, are the most numerous and some of the oldest types of animals living on the planet today. Due to their millions of years of survival on this planet, many types of insects have evolved to become genetically impervious to certain pathogens. All insects possess special genes that fight off a large variety of bacteria that would cause disease or death to other types of animals. As insects, termites also possess these unique genes, but termites also have an extra disease-fighting advantage that is not genetic.

Termite social behavior happens to be a major advantage for preventing disease within termite colonies. Unlike humans, termites dwelling within a colony are obliged to consume the feces of their fellow termites. Humans, obviously, will find this sort of socializing to be unthinkable. However, the termite colonies consumption of feces contributes to the ability to fight off pathogens. Now scientists are researching this excrement-consuming behavior in order to develop more successful termite eradication methods

Termites living within a crowded colony are at an advantage for spreading disease resistance among members. A termite living within a colony does not have to travel far in order to feast on the feces of another member. A solitary termite, on the other hand, would possess little disease resistance, and would therefore quickly die alone.

One potential pathogenic threat to termite colonies comes from certain fungal diseases. However, termite colonies still possess the immune strength necessary to easily combat fungal pathogens. That is, unless, termites are simultaneously exposed to fungal pathogens and nicotinic insecticides. This insecticide, on its own, cannot kill termite colonies. Luckily, the insecticide has been shown to reduce the immune strength of termites within a colony. Neonicotinoid insecticides could decrease immune strength among social termites to the point where they could no longer resist deadly pathogens. This combination could soon be used in order to effectively eradicate termite populations with ease.

Do you think that the fungal pathogens that harm termites could also harm humans if they were to be used commercially?


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