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Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-3.0 

Tasmanian Devil Milk Could Help Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria

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Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-3.0 

As more people use antibiotics to fight infections, certain strains of bacteria are becoming harder to beat. A future tool in the fight against drug-resistant superbugs may come from an unusual source: Tasmanian devil milk. As Gizmodo reports, milk from the marsupials contains certain chemical compounds that can wipe out most dangerous bacterial infections.

For their research, recently published in Scientific Reports, scientists from the University of Sydney analyzed Tasmanian devil milk in their search for new superbug-fighting compounds. Milk from marsupials like Tasmanian devils differs from that of other mammals in that it has to provide nourishment to an underdeveloped infant. Joeys enter the pouch after a little more than a month of gestation, and their mother’s milk offers them extra immune support once they leave the safety of the womb.

The research team was able to pin down the compounds responsible for this special property. Tasmanian devil’s milk contains six antimicrobial peptides called cathelicidins. For comparison, humans have just one. After synthesizing the compounds in the lab, researchers found them to be effective against potentially deadly bacteria such as vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or golden staph.

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are one of the biggest health threats we’re currently facing. Tasmanian devils aren’t the only marsupials that might prove useful in the battle against them: Wallabies and opossums boast exceptionally high numbers of antimicrobial compounds as well. Study researcher Emma Peel told the BBC that studies into koala milk are also underway.

[h/t Gizmodo]
 
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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages

Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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