Does Breast Milk Hold the Secret to Wiping Out Superbugs?

Matt Broomfield | Independent | January 23, 2016

A protein found in human breast milk could be used to destroy drug-resistant superbugs, according to research. The research, carried out by the National Physical Laboratory and University College London, shows that lactoferrin, a component of a protein which naturally occurs in breast milk, destroys bacteria, fungi and viruses as soon as it touches them. It has long been known that breast milk is vital to the health of young babies.

Mother breastfeeding - Credit Eric Parker CCFor millennia, breast-fed children have benefited from an additional layer of protection against disease during the crucial first months of life. But the new study hones in on lactoferrin, a fragment of a protein less than a nanometre across which gives breast milk its antibiotic properties. Many people in the medical community are deeply concerned by the potentially lethal threat of drug-resistant superbugs, which evolve rapidly to defeat any antibiotics we throw at them... this sense, lactoferrin is more than just another antibiotic for hospital-dwelling superbugs to overcome. Because the protein works so fast, tearing bacteria apart in a fraction of a second, it's hoped that superbugs simply won't have time to develop a resistance to it. Though lactoferrin has been known to biologists since the 1960s, this study was the first to hone in on the element of the protein specifically concerned with fighting disease...