The Tasmanian Devil is a carnivorous marsupial that lives in the wild exclusively in the state of Tasmania in Australia. The species has been described as endangered since the 1980's, which posits ecological threats to Tasmania, as the devils manage the burgeoning feral cat and red fox populations. Joeys are born extremely underdeveloped, completely lacking an immune system. They spend the first weeks of their lives inside the mother's pouch- which is a rather unsanitary environment. To protect against fungi and bacteria inside the pouch, mothers' milk contains powerful cathelicidins, immune compounds produced by mammalian immune systems. While humans only have one form of these powerful antimicrobial peptides, Tasmanian Devils have six! Researchers at the University of Sydney milked captive devils at Devil Ark Conservancy in Tasmania and recreated the six cathelicidins to test against 25 bacterias and 6 fungi. The fifth cathelcidin wiped out MRSA and the bacteria that causes infant meningitis. Using these artificial peptides to fight antibiotic-resistant strains may be utilized by pharmaceutical companies in the next few years.
Peel, E. et al. Cathelicidins in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii). Sci. Rep. 6, 35019; doi: 10.1038/srep35019 (2016).