New Scientist podcast
08 September 2006
 
Breaking News
JOB OF THE WEEK

The World's No.1 Science & Technology News Service

 

Fighting superbugs with milk

  • 20 April 2006
  • From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
Printable versionEmail to a friendRSS FeedSyndicate
 
Tools
  • digg this
  • reddit submit
  • Add My Yahoo
  • Newsvine
  • DEL.ICIO.US

A NEWBORN wallaby is a tiny, bean-shaped creature, barely more than a fetus. It lacks a developed immune system, relying on compounds in its mother's milk to protect it against pathogens. Now a unique antimicrobial has been discovered in wallaby milk that could be used in hospitals to fight deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

When born, with a heart but no lungs, tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) crawl into their mother's pouch, where they latch on to milk-bearing teats. "A huge amount of development happens in the pouch and during that time they just rely on milk," says Ben Cocks of the Victoria Department of Primary Industries in Melbourne, Australia.

Cocks has found that the mother's milk contains a molecule that is 100 times more effective against Gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli than the most potent form of penicillin. The molecule, called AGG01, also kills four types of Gram-positive bacteria and one type of fungus. The work was presented at the US Biotechnology Industry Organization 2006 meeting in Chicago last week.

AGG01 was probably lost from placental mammals, whose young have their own immune systems, when they split from marsupials.

From issue 2548 of New Scientist magazine, 20 April 2006, page 16
Printable versionEmail to a friendRSS FeedSyndicate
 
Cover of latest issue of New Scientist magazine
  • For exclusive news and expert analysis every week subscribe to New Scientist Print Edition
  • For what's in New Scientist magazine this week see contents
  • Search all stories
  • Contact us about this story
  • Sign up for our free newsletter
 
SUBSCRIBER LOGIN
Subscribe to New Scientist magazine