Breast milk contains the energy and nutrients that infants need for the first months of life, and also helps protect against infectious disease. Lactoferrin is a protein in milk with can kill bacteria, fungi and even viruses.
The antimicrobial activities of this protein are mainly due to a single tiny fragment. Working with partners from University College London (UCL), we predicted that these fragments would join together to attack bacterial cells by forming holes in their membranes.
We re-engineered the fragment into a nanoscale building block which self-assembles into capsules. These capsules recognise and bind to bacteria, forming membrane-damaging holes at precise landing positions. This kills the bacteria.