Goats' milk with antimicrobial lysozyme speeds recovery from diarrhea

Milk from goats that were genetically modified to produce higher levels of a human antimicrobial protein has proved effective in treating diarrhea in young pigs, demonstrating the potential for food products from transgenic animals to one day also benefit human health, report researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The study is the first on record to show that goats' milk carrying elevated levels of the antimicrobial lysozyme, a protein found in human breast milk, can successfully treat diarrhea caused by in the .

The findings, slated to appear March 13 in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE, offer hope that such milk may eventually help prevent human that each year claim the lives of 1.8 million children around the world and impair the physical and mental development of millions more.

"Many developing parts of the world rely on livestock as a main source of food," said James Murray, a UC Davis animal science professor and lead researcher on the study. "These results provide just one example that, through genetic engineering, we can provide agriculturally relevant animals with novel traits targeted at solving some of the health-related problems facing these developing communities."

In this study, Murray and colleagues fed young pigs milk from goats that were genetically modified to produce in their milk higher levels of lysozyme, a protein that naturally occurs in the tears, saliva and milk of all mammals.

Although lysozyme is produced at very high levels in human breast milk, the milk of goats and cows contains very little lysozyme, prompting the effort to boost lysozyme levels in the milk of those animals using .

Because lysozyme limits the growth of some bacteria that cause and diarrhea and also encourages the growth of other beneficial , it is considered to be one of the main components of that contribute to the health and well-being of breast-fed infants.

Pigs were chosen for this study as a research model because their gastrointestinal physiology is quite similar to humans, and because pigs already produce a moderate amount of lysozyme in their milk.

Half of the pigs in the study were fed pasteurized milk that came from the transgenic goats and carried greater amounts of lysozyme—68 percent of the level found in . The other half of the pigs were fed pasteurized milk that came from nontransgenic goats and thus contained very little lysozyme.

The study found that, although both groups of pigs recovered from the infection and resulting diarrhea, the young pigs fed the lysozyme-rich milk recovered much more quickly than did the young pigs that received goats' milk without enhanced levels of lysozyme. Overall, the pigs fed the lysozyme milk were less dehydrated, had less intestinal inflammation, suffered less damage to the inner intestines and regained their energy more quickly than did the pigs in the control group. And, the researchers detected no adverse affects associated with the lysozyme-rich milk.

The lysozyme-enhanced milk used in this study came from a transgenic line of dairy goats developed in 1999 by Murray, co-author Elizabeth Maga and their colleagues to carry the gene for producing human lysozyme in their milk.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What's best for very low birth weight babies

Aug 16, 2012

While the health benefits of breast feeding baby are well known, a new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Pediatrics finds that, for very low birth weight (VLBW) babies, a small amount of fortification can im ...

Recommended for you

Ebola-hit Liberia delays school reopening

5 hours ago

Liberia's education ministry said on Sunday it had postponed by two weeks the reopening of the country's schools, which were closed six months ago to limit the spread of the Ebola virus.

Ebola: timeline of a ruthless killer

14 hours ago

Here are key dates in the current Ebola epidemic, the worst ever outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever which first surfaced in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

Jan 31, 2015

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

Second bird flu case confirmed in Canada

Jan 30, 2015

The husband of a Canadian who was diagnosed earlier this week with bird flu after returning from a trip to China has also tested positive for the virus, health officials said Friday.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.