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Breast milk protein to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria

Published lördag 24 januari 2015 kl 13.43
The hope is not to develop a treatment that can beat pneumonia and tuberculosis. Photo: Therese Jahnson/TT
The hope is not to develop a treatment that can beat pneumonia and tuberculosis. Photo: Therese Jahnson/TT

A protein found in breast milk could be a new weapon against bacteria resistant against antibiotics, according to research in Lund.

Swedish Radio News reports that the protein has been found to make the bacteria sensitive to antibiotics they previously were resistant against. This means that diseases that today has no treatment would again be possible to treat with normal antibiotics, and the negative spiral with increasing antibiotic resistance around the world can be reversed.

Professor Anders Håkansson at Lund University explains how the protein, known as hamlet, was discovered in Lund some 20 years ago. Back then it was found that it could kill cancer cells whilst leaving healthy cells in peace. The new findings are just as dramatic.

The researcher will now concentrate on two types of bacteria that are currently resistant to antibiotics: pneumococcus that cause pneumonia, and tuberculosis bacteria.

"this is a big problem in different parts of the world, particularly in Asia and Africa. Some 1,6 million people, mainly children, die of pneumococcus every year, said Anders Håkansson.

And the bacteria that leads to tuberculosis kills around two million people every year. Researchers in Sweden and the US will now start with lab tests, which they hope will lead to a treatment where patients will breathe in a mixture of the breast milk protein and ordinary antibiotics.

"It is a way for us to go back and use old antibiotics that no longer work," said Håkansson, who believes the treatment could start being used in three-four years.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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