The newest candidate to help defeat superbugs? Think Taz. As in Tasmanian devil.
Researchers say milk from the endangered Down Under critters has antibiotic properties.
Tasmanian devils—perhaps best known to Americans as Bugs Bunny's spinning antagonist Taz from “Looney Toons” cartoons—are marsupials that spend their first weeks after birth suckling in their mothers' pouches. Researchers started looking into the milk after learning those pouches harbored many bacteria that could hurt the developing young.
The research published in the journal Scientific Reports found the milk killed multidrug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA. The studies are still in the early stages.
The rise in antimicrobial-resistant infections has been an ongoing and worldwide health concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates they kill about 700,000 people every year. But studies show antibiotics are still being overprescribed and researchers are scrambling to combat the so-called superbugs.
An analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts earlier this year showed 37 new antibiotics in clinical development for the U.S. market.
The devils, which live on the Australian island state of Tasmania, are listed as endangered with a current population of somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000. They are threatened by a contagious cancer that has caused their population to decline by more than 60% in the past 10 years.
News of the little devils' possible boon to mankind might be enough to make Bugs ask, “What's up, doc?”