Biologists in Australia discovered why platypus milk is able to fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs. It is not recent news that platypus milk has properties that could be used to fight superbugs, but now they have found out why.
Platypus milk may hold the key to saving lives.
When first discovered, platypuses were thought to be a hoax. Now, their milk can be used to fight superbugs.
Australian biologists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) were able to isolate the monotreme lactation protein and have identified a three-dimensional fold that could lead to the development of a new type of antibiotic.
Platypus milk contains a lactation protein that is able to fight off potent bacteria. This protein fights bacteria that is found in the environment, but not bacteria that is found in the platypuses. Because platypuses lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young, they don't have nipples. Instead, milk is secreted through their pores like sweat.
To feed their recently hatched young, platypus' milk must come into contact with the environment around it. In order to protect its young from infections, the milk has a protein that fights bacteria to be able to nourish its young.
Scientists were able to replicate the protein from platypus milk in the lab. They were able to get a better understanding of the protein. CSIRO scientists named it the Shirley Temple protein because of the curls found in the shape of the protein, similar to that of the real Shirley Temple's hairstyle while she was acting in movies in the 1930s.
The Shirley Temple protein has a unique fold that hasn't been seen in the more than 100,000 known protein structures. Protein's shapes determine its function. This structure may lead to a change in the way that infections are dealt with in the future.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the world's biggest health problems. Bacteria and viruses are becoming resistant to antibiotics that were once used to treat diseases that were easy to deal with. These bacteria are more difficult to kill, and can even lead to a serious disability or death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the cause of antibiotic resistance is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. After taking an antibiotic, sensitive bacteria will be killed but those that are resistant to it will survive. Repeated usage of the antibiotic increases the number of bacteria that are resistant, and this creates a health problem.