Tasmanian Devil Milk May Be the Next Antibiotic

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There’s a new source of antibiotic that is found in milk but you have to get it from Tasmanian devils.

Scientists recently found out that the milk of Tasmanian devils has antimicrobial substances that can eradicate harmful bacteria and fungi that have become resistant to drugs.

These carnivorous Australian marsupials can produce milk that has six types of microbe-fighting substances. Human milk contains only one.

Milk from these animals was tested in 25 known bacteria and 6 fungi. The tests showed that Tasmanian devil milk can eradicate golden staph – a type of bacteria that causes pneumonia, Enterococcus, and toxic shock syndrome, among others. It can also kill deadly types of yeast as well as fungi such as Cryptococcus Gattii which can cause serious human illnesses involving the lungs and nervous system.

Emma Peel of the University of Sydney was very excited about these revelations, citing that milk from these animals kills certain types of dangerous bacteria that other drugs fail to eradicate.

Tasmanian devils are marsupials found in Tasmania, one of the island states of Australia. Animals in this class include kangaroos, possums, and koalas.

For the past 20 years, Tasmanian devils have been threatened by facial tumor disease that has caused deaths, thereby eliminating about three-fourths of the population.

On the lighter side, the species seem to have developed natural mechanisms to fight the disease. At birth, Tasmanian devils do not carry immune tissues and produce antibodies only at around three months old. Still, these incredibly tough animals thrive in the pouch microbiome which is full of bacteria.

According to scientists, it is possible that the presence of antimicrobial substances in the mother’s milk may have helped the young thrive in its environment.

Peel’s group inspected the animal’s DNA and studied the components of its milk, including molecular structure. What they discovered are six peptides with antimicrobial properties which are up to six times more powerful than known anti-fungal preparations.

Of this six, two peptides were identified to have strong antimicrobial properties that may be useful to humans. These are Saha-CATH5 and Saha-CATH6 and both can kill microbes harmful to humans.

There are studies showing that there will be more infection-related deaths than cancer deaths as some microbes become more and more resistant to drugs. If this will prevail, then an immediate solution must be available now. The team is already exploring the possibility of having a safe, synthetic version of Saha-CATH 5 and 6 for humans.

Peel added that these two peptides are effective at killing superbugs and so developing these into antibiotic drugs is worth exploring.

Further research will also lead to finding out if the peptides can help prevent or cure cancer.

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