There are many features of the platypus that make it stand out from other creatures. First, it is one of the few surviving species of mammals that lay eggs. Second, it has venomous flippers. Finally, it has a very unusual appearance, with a furry body and a duckbill. These factors mean that the platypus is a rather strange creature. However, the platypus is now attracting attention to itself for other reasons as scientists believe it could play an important role in the development of antibiotics.
Scientists have discovered that platypus milk contains a unique protein that has the potential to help fight antibiotic resistance. The growing resistance to antibiotics has become a huge barrier to the effective treatment of infections and diseases.
For the last 70 years, antibiotics have been one of the most commonly prescribed varieties of drugs as they are used to treat a wide range of conditions. Unfortunately, they have been used to such an extent that some bugs have now built up a resistance to them. Therefore, when people are taking antibiotics, it is an ineffective treatment as the drugs cannot beat the infection. There are now several superbugs that do not respond to antibiotic treatment.
This has caused a major issue which doctors, pharmacists, researchers, and scientists are now trying to conquer. In the United States alone, millions of lives are at risk each year due to this growing resistance to antibiotics. The issue was elevated to crisis level by the United Nations in 2016 and General Ban Ki-moon described the situation as a fundamental and long-term threat to the health of humans. He also said that it was detrimental to sustainable food production.
The situation has led to intensive research into possible solutions and the scientists involved have been forced to become creative in finding ways to help humans fight against this antibiotic resistance. It was this intensive and creative research that led to the 2010 discovery of the antibacterial properties of platypus milk.
Most young mammals receive their milk by sucking on their mother’s teats. This is not the case for the platypus as their milk is delivered to their young in a rather unusual way. It is secreted from the skin on their bellies just like sweat and it is from there that there young eat.
The breast milk from other mammals is delivered directly from within the mother to their young and it is not exposed to any bacteria. The way that a platypus feeds its young means that the milk is exposed to external bacteria as it lies on their skin before it is fed to their offspring. It is probably for this reason that the milk of a platypus contains this bacteria-fighting protein to prevent their young from becoming ill.
A team of researchers wanted to learn more about why the milk is this way and attempted to replicate the proteins in a laboratory setting. This research was conducted by Deakin University and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
The first stage of the research involved taking a closer look at the structure of the protein. What they discovered was a completely unique three-dimensional fold. They gave this protein the nickname ‘Shirley Temple’ as they had described it as looking like a ringlet. The child actress was well-known for her curly hair, so this reference makes sense.
From their research, the scientists involved believe that this protein has the potential to aid the development of new drugs that will fight against the superbugs due to its unique structure. They feel that further research is needed to make this happen. Therefore, they are now looking for more scientists and researchers who are willing to collaborate on this project in the future.
As the antibiotic resistance situation is gradually worsening, researchers have no time to lose in finding a solution to this problem. Even if they are correct and the use of proteins from the milk of a platypus will help to resolve the issue, it could take years before enough research and trials are complete to bring this plan to fruition. Those in the field of health and medical research are now keeping their fingers crossed that these findings will lead to further developments in the near future.