Australian scientists have found a chemical in wallaby milk that is 100 times more effective against bacteria than penicillin.
A newborn wallaby is a tiny, bean-shaped creature that is little more than a foetus. Born with a heart but no lungs, and without an effective immune system, the joey relies on compounds in its mother's milk to protect it against disease.
A search of the wallaby's genome revealed more than 30 factors in the breast milk that help fight bacteria. One of these is an anti-microbial
molecule called AGG01, which kills a wide range of bacteria and fungi and could potentially be used in hospitals to fight strains of bacteria
that are resistant to antibiotics.
In tests, AGG01 not only stopped bacteria from growing, as many other
antimicrobial agents do, but also killed 99% of the bug. It was found to be effective against E-coli, streptococci, salmonella, a relative of MRSA and candida.
The scientists say that this component will be easy and inexpensive to synthesise, and work has already begun on this, although it may be six years before it can be marketed as a medicine.
The animal studied in the research was the Tammar wallaby, but it is thought that the milk of larger kangaroos probably contains the same special qualities.
If it were possible to milk marsupials commercially, their milk could be another potential alternative to cows’ milk, but for this to be a viable option, someone would have to work out how to catch the creatures at milking time and then keep them still for the duration of the process - an unlikely development!
The discovery was presented to the annual meeting of the US Biotechnology Industry Organisation in Chicago in May 2006.
Click here for more research on candida
First Published in October 2007
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