Platypus Milk Could Help Fight Antibiotic Resistance

An important finding through studying animals reveals itself again, and the fight against antibiotic resistance is among the most serious issues of the 21st century.

Researchers previously discovered that platypus milk confers antimicrobial protection to the species’ young, and now a new study led by scientists at Australia’s CSIRO has figured out what it is about platypus milk that’s so effective against bacteria.

“Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” says one of the team, molecular biologist Janet Newman.

“By taking a closer look at their milk, we’ve characterised a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties with the potential to save lives.”

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It’s possible, the team thinks, the platypus evolved to produce its antimicrobial Shirley Temple curls, as a defence against bacteria attracted to this exposed milk, ensuring the pups got fed, not bugs in the environment.

That’s just a hypothesis at the moment, but now that we know about the molecular structure of this natural antimicrobial structure, the team says we might be able to replicate the protein for antibiotic medications – providing us with a new means of fighting the growing scourge of antibiotic resistance.

It’s not the first time this unusual animal has come to our aid. In 2016, researchers discovered a hormone contained in platypus venom could actually help us develop new kinds of diabetes treatments.

Not bad for a wacky hybrid of stitched-together animal parts that’s probably just a joke somebody’s playing on us. Not bad at all.

“There’s a quote from [Louis] Pasteur which is ‘Chance favours the prepared mind’,” Newman told Radio NZ.

“You can find discoveries in all sorts of places.”