Egg laying mammals become source of novel anti-microbial

A novel Anti-Microbial Protein (AMP) found in the milk of egg laying mammals Echidna can be used as alternatives to the antibiotics used in livestock, researchers said.

Scientists at Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) have found that the milk of Echidna (also known as spiny anteaters) contain a novel AMP, important to keep their young ones safe from possible infections.

According to a statement from CSIR-CCMB on Wednesday, unlike mammals which directly give birth to their young ones, Echidna are unique egg laying mammals found only in Australia and New Guinea. Their young ones depend completely on their mothers’ milk. As the mammary glands of the female Echidna are devoid of nipples, the young of these egg-laying mammals lick milk from the body surface of their mothers. This also becomes a potential source of many micro-organisms entering the young ones’ bodies.

A research team led Dr Satish Kumar at CSIR-CCMB have shown that this protein creates punctures in the cell membranes of multiple bacterial species and so in future can be used as alternatives to the present antibiotics. They have also found out ways to produce the AMP in large quantities using E.coli — an easy to use system for life scientists and industry.

With antibiotics being used indiscriminately in animal husbandry to maintain healthy livestock and as growth promoters, this has also led to the rise of multiple antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

Mastitis, an infection of mammary gland of lactating dairy animals, is one such challenge where the number of effective antibiotics is on a decline. In some extreme cases, mastitis causes permanent damage to the mammary tissue. Dr Kumar’s team has been able to show that the AMP from Echidna is potent against mastitis causing bacteria.

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



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