Platypus milk could save lives

A+platypus+%28CC+BY-ND+2.0%29
Back to Article
Back to Article

Platypus milk could save lives

A platypus (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A platypus (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Photo by Matt Chan

A platypus (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Photo by Matt Chan

Photo by Matt Chan

A platypus (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ryan Ausden, Journalist

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Drug resistant bacterial infections are getting serious, not only in Australian hospitals, but all over the world. According to a report compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there were 1,502 cases of one of the most serious and lethal infections, Staphylococcus aureus or ‘Golden Staph’ in Australian hospitals in 2016-17.

A new way to combat this bacterial infection could be horizon however. Researchers from the CSIRO, after being prompted by their partners at Deakin University, have found that platypus milk contains a unique protein structure that could be used to combat Golden Staph and other bacterial infections.

One of researchers, CSRIO Structural Biologist Janet Newman, underscored the importance of the research, saying: “These bacteria are so resistant and as a society we’re so used to being able to cure bacterial infection that we in fact forget that people used to die of them all the time, and that something that’s a little sobering because if we lose our ability to treat bacterial infection, we’re going to die.”

Over the past decade scientists have have been intrigued by the platypus, as the babies are born with an incredibly weak immune system, and it is the protein in the milk that has such strong antibacterial properties that it keeps the babies healthy until they develop their own  immune systems.

Dr Newman said: “There’s over 100,000 protein structures known which have been solved over the past decades. Now what makes this particularly interesting is that his protein doesn’t look anything like any of the 100,000 protein structures currently known.”

She also stresses the importance of challenging misconceptions about how the protein is created. “No platypuses are involved outside of the original milk sample that was collected. This is because the platypus genome has been sequenced. We knew about the protein and we knew what the amino acid sequence of the protein is, so we know what piece of DNA corresponds to that protein.”

Having this information allows the scientists to recreate the structure of the protein, letting them experiment on it as much as they want until they start to see results on various bacterial infections.

Deakin University’s Dr Julie Sharp was involved in the collection of the original sample of platypus milk that was used in CSRIO’s testing. “The Platypus is trapped in the river with an environmentally friendly trap, we then take them from the cage and we inject a hormone called oxytocin that releases milk. The milk secreted onto the stomach of the Platypus and then we collected it in tubes.”

Dr Newman said the team is now focusing on experimenting with various parts of the platypuses milk protein structure to see how it responds in various situations.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email