News / Health

Protein in Breast Milk Fights Antibiotic Resistance

A mother breastfeeds a child in South Africa. (VOA/D.Taylor)A mother breastfeeds a child in South Africa. (VOA/D.Taylor)
x
A mother breastfeeds a child in South Africa. (VOA/D.Taylor)
A mother breastfeeds a child in South Africa. (VOA/D.Taylor)
Jessica Berman
A protein discovered in human breast milk, which goes by the Shakespearean-sounding acronym, HAMLET, reportedly fights drug-resistant bacteria when added to antibiotics. The researchers say HAMLET could be used to boost the effectiveness of medications against the rising number of drug-resistant and dangerous bacteria.

HAMLET is short for Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells.  The human milk-protein complex has proved to be an effective weapon against cancer cells by destroying vital structures within each cell called mitochondria, biochemical powerplants which are responsible both for cellular energy and the processes that lead to cell death.

Researchers have found that HAMLET can do the same damage to the mitichondria in the cells of drug-resistant bacteria.

Anders Hakansson, a microbiologist and immunologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo, discovered HAMLET while looking for substances in human breast milk that protect newborns against upper respiratory infections.

Neither HAMLET nor antibiotics alone can kill drug-resistant pathogens, according to Hakansson.  But the cell-disrupting protein and drug combine to form a powerful new anti-microbial weapon.

“So, it’s something that generally weakens the cell so that a number of different antibiotics will be able to have a better access to its targets and kill better," he said.

So far, Hakansson and colleagues have demonstrated the killing effect of HAMLET as an additive or adjuvant, to antibiotics both in the test-tube and in mice they infected with Staphyloccocus aureus, or MERSA. That's a multi-drug resistant strain of bacteria found both in and outside of hospitals, that causes a variety of potentially fatal infections in humans.

“The good news with this is that it can be used generally with essentially any kind of treatment, with any antibiotic - even if the organism appears to be sensitive - because it will be more sensitive if our protein is present," he said.

While the HAMLET protein in the experiments came from human milk, Hakansson says there’s an almost identical protein complex in cow’s milk which can also be used to fortify antibiotics.

Hakansson says developing new antibiotics is becoming less profitable for pharmaceutical companies, and as a result they have shown declining interest in this class of drugs. But he believes HAMLET offers a way to derive new use from existing drugs.

“Using an adjuvant that can be used together with any antibiotic to go back.and start using the old antibiotics that we know are safe and effective ..is very appealing," he said.

An article by Anders Hakansson and colleagues on the antibiotic additive HAMLET is published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid