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Science & Technology

Breast milk can fight antibiotic resistance

By T.K. Randall
January 23, 2016 · Comment icon 11 comments

Antibiotic resistance is becoming an increasingly worrying problem. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 CSIRO
Scientists have identified a protein in breast milk that could help in the fight against superbugs.
The idea of a future in which even the most innocuous of infections has the potential to kill you might sound like something out of a science fiction disaster movie, yet within the next few decades we could be facing a world where this worrying scenario actually becomes a reality.

Even now over 50,000 people in the US and Europe die from antibiotic resistant infections every year and this figure could rise to over 10 million by the year 2050 if nothing is done.

Not all is lost, however, as scientists have been hard at work developing new types of antibiotics in the hope of staying one step ahead of the superbugs.
A recent study in the UK for instance has determined that a protein in breast milk - lactoferrin - could hold the key to battling antibiotic resistance. It is the same protein that helps to protect newborn babies from viruses and bacteria in their first few months of life.

Once the protein fragment had been identified scientists were able to re-engineer it in to a special 'capsule' that could help to deliver treatments to where they are needed most in the body.

"We need on average 10 new antibiotics every decade," said England's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies. "If others do not work with us, it's not something we can sort on our own."

"This is a global problem. I am optimistic about this. The science is crackable. It's doable."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 9 years ago
One more reason to love breast.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Knight Of Shadows 9 years ago
i wanna know the extraction process and weather i can get job in this experince i wanna help make the world better place
Comment icon #4 Posted by Wickian 9 years ago
Hmm... What happens if viruses and bacteria become resistant to the antibiotic properties of breast milk like they have other antibiotics, leaving infants extremely vulnerable in the future?
Comment icon #5 Posted by and then 9 years ago
I saw this last year (I think) here on UM but it's worth a repeat: African physician uses a home remedy to help heal ulcerations that don't respond to antibiotics. And all he does is wrap the wound in regular table sugar.
Comment icon #6 Posted by AustinHinton 9 years ago
Power to the breasts I guess?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Ell 9 years ago
Finally some good news. No, it is not good news at all. This protein protects babies. When it is used to fight bacteria, the bacteria will develop a resistence to it and the consequence of that is that babies will die by the millions. Using this protein to fight infections is VERY bad indeed.
Comment icon #8 Posted by pallidin 9 years ago
Having been myself as an infant "breast-fed" by my mother I see this as a "Nature natural"
Comment icon #9 Posted by pallidin 9 years ago
Problem is, of course, when undesirable chemicals are within the mother's breast milk. Good to hear, though, that potentially there are highly desirable components of a mother's breast milk.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Dark_Grey 9 years ago
Cinnamon and oregano are also powerful antibiotics. It's like dropping an A-bomb in a petri dish. Shouldn't we be finding ways to bolster our existing immune systems? It seems like the best defense we have (as nature intended, anyway). It adapts and evolves like a virus so how can we give our white blood cells machine guns instead of sidearms? Edit to add-- I guess the onas is mostly on the individual. Live a healthy lifestyle, have a well functioning immune system.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Darkenpath25 8 years ago
I think this is great . I know it has to be good for something more than feeding a baby. Thats some nasty tasting stuff . My sister in law stayed with us while my brother was on a business trip because she just had a baby . I didn't know anything about women pumping milk from their breast . She had done this before I got home from school . I seen it in the refrigerator grabbed it and took a big gulp of it . It still gives me chills to think about that .It wouldnt surprise me if it took paint off the wall. Powerful nasty stuff for sure.

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