You might soon have to drink platypus milk to get rid of a bad infection! A group of Australian scientists managed to reveal the structure of a platypus milk protein with resistance to bacteria that could be useful in the creation of drugs, official sources reported today.
In 2010, scientists discovered the properties of milk from the platypus, a strange Australian poisonous animal with a duckbill and beaver tail, which may contribute to the global fight against antibiotic resistance.
The team is made up of scientists from The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Deakin University, also located in Australia. The scientists created a three-dimensional image, using X-ray crystallography and highly sophisticated equipment, which allowed them to discover a unique structure that resembles folds of curly hair.
This feature motivated scientists to call it Shirley Temple, in reference to the curly hair of the late American child actress of the last century, according to a CSIRO statement. “Platypuses are such rare animals that it makes sense to think they have a rare biochemistry,” said study author Janet Newman, who is also a scientist at CSIRO, in the journal Structural Biology Communications.
“Platypuses belong to the family of monotremes, a small group of mammals that lay eggs and produce milk to feed their young. In analyzing their milk, we have characterized a new protein that has antibacterial properties with the potential to save live,” Newman added in the CSIRO statement.
Having no breasts to feed their young, platypuses extract the milk from their stomachs to be sucked by the young. In this process, the special protein protects the milk and, therefore, the little ones from the bacteria in the environment. “We are interested in examining the structure of the protein and its characteristics to determine how the protein works,” said Julie Sharp of Deakin University.
“While we have identified that this highly unusual protein exists only in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of the structure of proteins in general and will help in other discoveries about drugs in the center,” Sharp said.
In 2014, the World Health Organization highlighted in a report the global threat posed by antibiotic resistance, urging urgent action to avoid a post-antibiotic era in which common infections or simple injuries are life-threatening.