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Current Affairs

Anti-microbial protein isolated from milk of Echidnas

Date: 25 April 2019 Tags: Biotechnology

Scientists from Council of Scientific & Industrial Research - Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) here have isolated anti-microbial protein found in milk of Echidnas, an egg-laying mammal. The isolation of this protein promises to serve as alternative to antibiotics used on livestock. The protein is effective against mastitis-causing bacteria in livestock.

Key Facts

  • Echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters. They are unique egg-laying mammals found only in Australia and New Guinea. Their young hatch from eggs at very early stage of development and depend completely on mother’s milk.
  • Echidnas’ mammary glands are devoid of nipples, which forces young ones to lick milk from mother’s body surface and potentially making them vulnerable to micro-organisms.
  • However, milk of echidna has protein that can puncture cell membranes of multiple bacterial species, thus destroying source of infection.
  • Significance: Discovery of this protein gives novel approach to fight infectious diseases taking clues from nature. It also assumes significance in emerging scenario of increased infectious disease burden and resistance to current treatments
  • There are ways to produce protein in large quantities using E. coli. It can use as anti-microbial to fight rise of superbugs due to indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal husbandry industry to raise livestock. The superbugs can cause mastitis, an infection of the mammary gland, in dairy animals.

Note: Echidnas and Platypus are the only egg-laying mammals. They are known as Monotremes.