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Platypus might hold the answer to the world's superbug woes

Photo: Platypus milk discovery 'could save lives'
CSIRO scientists have found a curly protein in platypus milk that they believe could one day help in the fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Scientists have pin-pointed a curly protein in the native animal's milk - dubbed the "Shirley Temple" - they believe could be used to kill off bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

The platypus is a monotreme, which along with echidnas, are the only mammals that lay eggs and produce milk to feed their young.

But because they don't have teats, they express their highly-nutritious milk onto their belly - leaving it exposed to the environment.

And that's why researchers from the CSIRO and Deakin University believe it is so potent.
"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," CSIRO scientist Dr Janet Newman said on Thursday.

The scientists, whose work was published in Structural Biology Communications, replicated the protein in a lab, where they found the never-before-seen ringlet-formation.

Dr Newman said the discovery was "pretty special".

They are now on the lookout for collaborators to take the potentially life-saving research to the next stage.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation pleaded for urgent action to avoid a "post-antibiotic era" where people would be dying from once-treatable minor injuries and common infections due to antibiotic resistant super bugs.


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