Biologists have reproduced a 60-million-year-old wallaby gene and used it to develop a compound that could help fight multidrug-resistant superbugs.
Antimicrobial resistance is a large threat to our health and current antibiotics are in danger of becoming ineffective as bacteria evolve to resist them.
Using molecules of the innate immune system from animals with the strongest innate immune systems to fight these superbugs have so far been impractical.
The reason being that animals tend to be so distantly related to human beings that molecules taken from them could have toxic effects on us.
Which is why Ben Cocks of La Trobe University in Bundoora, Australia and colleagues decided to study the mammals with the best innate immune systems, the molecules of which are more likely to be compatible with humans.
Lab tests revealed that many of the peptides (a component of the innate immune system) destroyed six of seven multidrug-resistant bacteria, and was 10 to 30 times more potent than modern antibiotics such as tetracycline.
"This is really significant," New Scientist quoted Cocks as saying.
"Now we have access to ancient peptides for future drug development," he added.