The humble platypus has emerged as an unlikely hero in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
It was discovered in 2010 that platypus milk contained antibacterial properties and Australian researchers now know why.
A protein in platypus milk, nicknamed “Shirley Temple” because of its ringlet-like structure, has been identified by researchers as the cause of the platypus milk’s powerful antibiotic properties.
CSIRO scientist and researcher Janet Newman said the discovery had the potential to save lives.
“Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” she said.
“By taking a closer look at their milk, we’ve characterised a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties.
“Although we’ve identified this highly unusual protein as only existing in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of protein structures in general, and will go on to inform other drug discovery work done at the centre.”
The research is seen as an important step in combating antibiotic resistance, which is fast becoming a global threat.
In 2014 the World Health Organisation released a report urging swift action to avoid a “post-antibiotic era”, in which once treatable infections would become deadly once again.