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In Spiny anteater’s milk could be an alternative to antibiotics

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on April 24, 2019 Published on April 24, 2019

The Spiny anteater is a unique egg-laying mammal found predominantly in Australia and New Guinea   -  istock/BeyondImages

Taking clues from the nature, scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here have isolated a novel protein from the Spiny anteater, which promises an alternative to antibiotics.

The anti-microbial protein (AMP), identified in the milk secreted by the anteater or Echidna, has been found to keep the young ones at bay from infections.

Easy-to-use system

A research team, led by Satish Kumar at the CSIR-CCMB, has demonstrated that the protein creates punctures in the cell membranes of multiple bacterial species, thus warding off threat to the young ones. The team also found ways to produce the AMP in large quantities using E-coli — an easy-to-use system for life scientists and the industry.

Given the widespread and indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal husbandry to maintain a healthy livestock as well as to push growth, the problem of multiple antibiotics-resistant bacterial strains has become common.

Mastitis, an infection of the mammary gland of lactating dairy animals is one such challenge where the number of effective antibiotics is on the decline. In some cases, mastitis causes permanent damage to the mammary tissue of dairy animals.

‘New approach’

The CCMB team has been able to show that the AMP from the anteater is effective against mastitits-causing bacteria. The team published their work in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Biomembranes.

Rakesh Mishra, Director, CSIR-CCMB, said: “Studies such as these give us novel approaches to fighting infectious diseases by taking clues from the nature. They are the best way forward in this emerging scenario of increased infectious disease burden and resistance to current treatments.”

The Spiny anteater. or Echidna, is a unique egg-laying mammal. Found predominantly in Australia and New Guinea, the young ones hatch out of eggs at a very early stage and depend completely on mothers’ milk.

Anti-bacterial properties

However, the mammary glands of the female Echidna are devoid of nipples. The young ones of these egg-laying mammals have milk from the body surface of their mothers. This also becomes a potential source of many micro-organisms entering the young ones’ bodies.

After observing and studying the unique feature among the anteaters, the CCMB researchers looked at the possibility of trying their anti-bacterial properties.

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Published on April 24, 2019
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