Breast milk protein could be used in fight against antibiotic resistance

An antibiotic developed from human breast milk could combat
certain drug-resistant bacteria, British scientists have found.

Tackling antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as superbugs,
is a priority for the government. A panel set up by David Cameron forecast that
they would cost 10 million lives and £700bn a year worldwide by 2050 if the
problem went unchecked.

The breakthrough, by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL)
and University College London, found that the minuscule fragment, less than a
nanometre in width, is responsible for giving the protein its anti-microbial
properties.

This is what makes breast milk so important in protecting
infants from disease in their first months of life. The protein, called
lactoferrin, effectively kills bacteria, fungi and even viruses on contact.

After identifying the fragment, scientists re-engineered it
into a virus-like capsule that can recognise and target specific bacteria and
damage them on contact, but without affecting any surrounding human cells.

The team suggested this could help the fight against
antibiotic resistance by serving as “delivery vehicles” for cures. The capsules
could even pave the way for treatments for previously incurable conditions such
as sickle-cell disease, cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The Lactating Breast
When the baby sucks, a hormone called oxytoxin starts the milk flowing from the alveoli, through the ducts (milk canals) into the sacs (milk pools) behind the areola and finally into the baby’s mouth.
In an interview with the Times, Dame Sally Davies, the chief
medical officer for England, said governments and experts needed to do more to
tackle the antibiotics issue. “We need on average 10 new antibiotics every
decade. If others do not work with us, it’s not something we can sort on our
own,” she said. “This is a global problem. I am optimistic about this. The
science is crackable. It’s doable.”

Colin Garner, honorary professor of pharmacology at the
University of York and head of the charity Antibiotic Research UK, said the
situation was too urgent to wait for international consensus. “The pipeline of
new drugs had dried up and the problem was on the brink of becoming
intractable, he told the Times.

“My heart sinks when I hear the term ‘global initiative’.
How long has it taken the world to come to a sort of consensus about climate
change?” he said.

“The problem of antibiotic resistance will be at least as
intractable, because each nation takes a different view of what is required.”

The NPL findings are reported in the Royal Society of
Chemistry journal Chemical Science.

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Posted on January 26, 2016, in Useful Information. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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