A Protein in Breastmilk Could Fight Antibiotic Resistance

The protein destroys bacteria, fungi, and viruses as soon as it touches them. (Image:  theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc)
The protein destroys bacteria, fungi, and viruses as soon as it touches them. (Image: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc)

Antibiotic resistance has become a major issue, with concerns we could be close to entering a “post-antibiotic era.” Some analysts even compare it to being as serious as climate change. Antibiotic resistance has come about mainly due to the overuse of antibiotics on livestock to compensate for healthier living conditions.

Tech Times says the resistance to antibiotics could see the return of diseases we thought were curable — including strains of tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and typhoid that are already resistant to multiple drugs, and are killing hundreds of thousands each year — with the numbers further growing.

A report commissioned by U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, estimates that by 2050 antibiotic resistance could kill 300 million if nothing is done.

Watch this BBC News with Dr. Elizabeth Tayler talking about the seriousness of antibiotic resistance:

A possible cure

But, there is hope in the fight against antibiotic resistance, with new research finding a protein in breastmilk that could fight the drug-resistant superbugs.

The Independent reports that the research carried out by the National Physical Laboratory and University College London, found that the protein destroys bacteria, fungi, and viruses as soon as it touches them.

Biologists have known of lactoferrin since the 1960s, however this is the first study to really look into the specific element of the protein that fights disease.

According to the Independent, the researchers first isolated the protein, which is also found in saliva, tears, and “nasal secretions.” Next they engineered the highly potent protein into a form that could kill the bacteria and viruses while not harming the human host cells.

To get to this stage the biologists learned from the super-bugs and worked the lactoferrin itself into a virus-like form made to recognize and target certain, deadly bacteria.

As well as conquering the superbugs, researchers believe the protein could also fight diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia, which is considered incurable.

But don’t rush out to your doctors to see if they will prescribe it to you, there is still huge amounts of research and safety checks they still need to conduct.

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