Platypus milk may hold a key to fighting superbugs’ antibiotic resistance thanks to a unique protein scientists have uncovered in the milk.
Scientists studying the composition of platypus milk say a protein found within it has a unique structure that can kill bacteria on contact, the BBC reported.
Platypus mothers concentrate their milk to their bellies and sweat it out, and their young drink it directly from their exposed skin. Because of this unique feeding system, the milk is exposed to many more pathogens than most mammals’ milk, which is expressed through teats and is relatively sterile.
“Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” lead study author Dr. Janet Newman of the Australian national science agency CSIRO said, the BBC reported.
The protein has a structure that has not yet been seen in any animal product, and researchers dubbed it the “Shirley Temple” for its ringlet-like structure.
It is believed that the unusual protein in platypus milk protects the babies from their bacteria-rich environments in microbe-filled burrows where they live just after hatching, Live Science reported.
“Although we’ve identified this highly unusual protein as only existing in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of protein structures in general, and will go on to inform other drug discovery work done at the Centre,” Newman said, Live Science reported.
Researchers are looking for organic and drug compounds that can fight superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to all known antibiotics and are infecting more people every year.
The platypus milk findings were reported in Structural Biology Communications Journal.
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