at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research – Centre for Cellular
and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) have isolated an anti-microbial protein found
in the milk of Echidnas. According to scientists, the new finding could be an
alternative to antibiotics used on livestock. The research has been published
in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta –
Echidnas are also known as spiny anteaters. They
are unique egg-laying mammals found only in Australia and New Guinea.
Echidnas hatch from eggs at a very early stage
of development and depend completely on mother’s milk. However, the mammary
glands of the echidnas are devoid of nipples, forcing the young ones to lick
milk from the mother’s body surface and thus making them vulnerable to
However, the milk contains a novel
anti-microbial protein that helps to keep young ones safe from infections.
Research has revealed that the protein punctures cell membranes of bacteria thus
destroying the source of infection.
Scientists have said that there are ways to
produce the protein in large quantities using E. coli and can then be used to
fight mastitis-an infection of the mammary gland, in dairy animals. Due to
indiscriminate use of antibiotics in livestock there is a rise of superbugs
which can cause mastitis.
Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial
resistance are referred to as “superbugs”. Anti-microbial resistance is the
ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and some parasites)
to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and antimalarials)
from working against it.