New Delhi, October 31: In a pleasantly surprising report by renowned researchers, it has come to light that the milk of Tasmanian devil is filled with compounds that kill bacteria as well as antibiotic-resistant strains such as MRSA.
The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae. It is characterized by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odor, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding.
The Tasmanian devil's large head and neck allow it to generate among the strongest bites per unit body mass of any extant mammal land predator, and it hunts prey and scavenges carrion as well as eating household products if humans are living nearby.
According to the journal 'Scientific,' these immune compounds belong to group called antimicrobial peptides which protect Tasmanian devil joeys as they dwell in the pouches of their mothers. they can even be used and developed into drugs for people.
The samples of the milk were collected from the lactating devils at Devil Ark conservation facility. Since the female devils, like humans, may suffer from mastitis, the staff already had some practice milking Tasmanian devils.
The general manger of Devil Ark, Tim Faulkner said, "I have had past experience where I’ve had to do hot compress antibiotics and massage female devils to enable them to express that milk."
"The teats...are really, really swollen, they’re really packed with milk,” Faulkner says adding “We simply…massage the gland, use a hot compress to break that milk up, and essentially just run your fingers along down the teat and the milk will express.”
Thereafter, the milk is collected in little vials sitting beneath the treat. “It’s like putting cow’s milk into a bucket on a smaller scale,” Faulkner says. Faulkner is not of the opinion that milking a Tasmanian devil is a rather harrowing ordeal.
In fact, he mentioned, "When they have contact with humans they don’t try and rip your calf muscle off your leg." It is said that devils that inhabit in the wild are actually timid around people. Thus no keepers were savaged while collecting the milk.
"They do very well when they’re dark, they’re confined, they’re concealed; they’ll relax, and so essentially it’s a very nonintrusive process,” Faulkner says. The milk was donated by Tasmanian devil mothers whose pups were old enough that they no longer needed to be fused to the teat at all times.
“They’re at the latter end of pouch development, which means the milk is giving them lots of nutrients but also lots of fat,” he says. “It was like cow’s milk untreated; you know, thick, creamy, very sweet.”
Meanwhile, life is not easy for these Tasmanian devils. The 20 to 30 tiny, hairless joeys in a litter must race from the birth canal to their mother’s pouch, where only four teats await. Only the first four who manage to finish the climb survive. Further on, they remain clamped to the nipples for several months while their mothers even have to drag them underneath.
Devils are not monogamous, and their reproductive process is very robust and competitive. Males fight one another for the females, and then guard their partners to prevent female infidelity. Females can ovulate three times in as many weeks during the mating season, and 80% of two-year-old females are seen to be pregnant during the annual mating season.
Since the late 1990s, devil facial tumour disease has drastically reduced the devil population and now threatens the survival of the species, which in 2008 was declared to be endangered.