Protein lactoferrin found in breast milk and saliva has been re-engineered to develop hollow capsule constructions that are able to fight pathogenic bacteria at great speeds such that the latter cannot grow resistant to them.
Our world has changed so much down to even the microscopic organisms that what was once a brilliant solution might no more work. The same goes for antibiotics. The more we have used and abused of them, the more have the bacteria and viruses they are meant to target developed resistance. Gradually, the race to bring forth new effective antibiotics (or even new solutions) has only grown stauncher. A new study conducted by scientists from the National Physical Laboratory and University College London , and published in Chemical Science, might fortunately halt the downward spiral.
An antibiotic has recently been developed from a protein found in human breast milk. It is being hailed as being able to combat resistant bacterial species.
Breast milk is known for its great benefits: not only does it serve as food for the newborn but it also provides them with the protection they need against infections. One of the proteins it contains known as lactoferrin is particularly famous for its effectiveness against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The team of researchers have re-engineered it to enhance its effectiveness: the resulting construct bears great resemblance to viruses in terms of the latter’s assembly and function in that it can self-assemble into hollow capsules efficient for delivery and attack purposes.
The researchers focused on the ability of lactoferrin to kill microorganisms when they come into contact by drilling holes into their cell membrane. They built the protein into capsules that can identify specific bacteria and gang on them without targeting human cells.
Using atomic force microscopy, the action of the capsules was observed in real time by the researchers on a fast-moving measurement platform, explains lead author Hasan Alkassem. They thus watched how the capsules would attack the membranes of bacteria. Alkassem describes them as “projectiles” perforating the membranes at incredible speeds and with greater efficiency.
This method will also allegedly protect against bacterial resistance thanks to the high speed at which the protein recognises, attacks and kills the pathogens.
As much as this new research sounds good, the engineered protein itself might not be prescribed in the immediate future. More testing and research need to be done first.