Antibiotics and Nanotechnology to Win the War Against Superbugs
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Antibiotics and Nanotechnology to Win the War Against Superbugs

How can nanotechnology help win the war against superbugs? Is it possible to kill MRSA and bacteria using nanotech?

Recently, hospital antibiotic resistant superbugs such as MRSA and C. diff have been declining due to better cleanliness practises. This does not mean that the war raged against these bacterial infections is over, however.

MRSA and other ‘superbugs’ as the media has termed them, are becoming more and more resistant to differing antibiotics, which makes them far harder to treat than other infections. This is in part because patients taking a course of antibiotics to treat this condition often fail to take the complete course, allowing the superbug to survive, mutate and increase its resistance to drugs before re-infecting the patient once more. MRSA can thrive on surfaces that patients have touched, clothes and medical equipment. This can make it particularly dangerous in a hospital environment, where the patients often have lowered immune resistance to bacteria due to illness and accidents.

MRSA is becoming particularly troublesome as it has developed resistance to not only beta-lactam antibiotics (e.g. cephalosporin and penicillin) but several other types such as vancomycin. In fact there are some MRSA infections that are resistant to all but one or two antibiotics and if this state of affairs continues to get worse, it will soon prove deadly. MRSA could already be responsible for more deaths in the U.S.A. than AIDS.

Not all is lost, however, because nanotechnology is about to wage its own war against superbugs. Jonathan Dordick, director of Rensselaer’s Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies, has developed a nanocomposite capable of killing MRSA. This special nanocomposite could be used to paint surgical tools and hospital surfaces and a natural enzyme within this coating would kill the MRSA bug on contact. The coating is made up of carbon nanotubes containing an enzyme called lysostaphin, which naturally fights the bacterial staph infection.

In laboratory tests, when the nanotube-enzyme was mixed with regular household paint and used to coat a surface, it killed all of the MRSA bacteria within 20 minutes of contact. This amazing breakthrough shouldn’t lead to any further antibiotic resistance, it doesn’t pollute the environment and it can be scrubbed and cleaned without losing its ability to kill the superbug.

That’s not all though, because IBM researchers and scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have found an incredible way to give ordinary antibiotics a rocket-powered boost. With the aid of biodegradable nanotechnology (think very tiny molecular science) they will be able to make antibiotics physically attracted to cells containing bacteria. In theory, these tiny particles will be able to infiltrate our body with miniscule amounts of antibiotics, find the particular cells carrying the bacteria and annihilate them. With pinpoint precision these particles will wipe our bodies free of infection. It will make the doses of drugs that need to be administered in the future infinitesimal. Once used, these nanoparticles will be disposed of naturally within our bodies. 

These brand new polymers will stop bacteria in its tracks as they break through the bacterial cell wall and membrane and inject them with a tiny dose of antibiotics. In today’s conventional treatments, antibiotics have to be taken in large doses because they don’t destroy infected cells. 

If this new technology is able to wage war against superbugs, it will be much easier to swallow than that of its boring tablet counterpart. It is thought that it will be possible to administer the microscopic dosage by a simple water spray across the skin or a wipe with a wet tissue. The particles are so small they can be easily absorbed in this way.

It seems that antibiotics will be able to win the war against superbugs, after all.


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Comments (6)

this is a great update on the menacing superbug..

Great and very informative article.Thanks Ann for posting

Excellant work.

Yes, i agree: excellent work. Voted up

This is great ann :)

I learnt a lot from your fascinating article. Thank you, Ann.