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But you won’t find it in your latte

Rebecca Firkser
Updated: March 15, 2018

Your barista may be on a hunt for the best non-dairy milk to use in a latte, but scientists are currently jazzed over another nontraditional milk. Research has shown that platypus milk has powerful antibacterial properties, and new study has found how these antibacterial proteins work. Scientists hope these findings can be used to fight drug-resistant superbugs.

“Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” said Janet Newman, author of the new study on the milk, in a statement. The study, which is published in Structural Biology Communications, involved isolating a specific antibacterial protein found in platypus milk. The study was inspired by the way platypi feed their young. Instead of feeding their babies through a teat like cows, cats, or dogs, platipi essentially sweat milk out, and concentrate it onto their bellies. The milk is exposed to potentially harmful bacteria before the young platypi can drink it. Strangely enough, the babies stay healthy. Researchers believed that something in the mother’s milk was keeping the young thriving, even though they were constantly exposed to bacteria.

The scientists recreated the protein found in platypus milk in to find that the compound has a never-before-seen 3D protein fold. They now hope to use the protein to help create more powerful antibacterial creams and pills. If all goes well, this protein (which scientists named “Shirley Temple,” due to its curly structure) could be used to fight superbugs. At a time in medicine where more and more bacteria develop resistance to antibiotic drugs, this Shirley Temple protein could work wonders when it comes to preventing persistent infections.

So while you won’t be seeing platypus milk at a cafe, the milk’s protein could show up in your prescription someday soon.

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