There is hope that light-fueled nanoparticles might fight antibiotic resistance by killing off a good majority of the so infamously named ‘superbugs’. Antibiotic resistance continues to be a major problem for the medical community. Certain bacteria have begun developing immunity in the face of constantly changing treatments.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that in the United States alone, antibiotic resistance leads to 2 million illnesses per year. Among them, around 23,000 people would ultimately perish due to ineffective treatment. In spite of the use of powerful drugs, strains of dangerous bacteria evolve and adapt to the most basic drugs, such as penicillin.
Light-activated nanoparticles 20,000 times smaller than human hair
Researchers from the University Colorado Boulder have developed a new approach that might put an end to the issue. They conducted an experiment on bacteria cells grown in the laboratory. The harmful cells were exposed to light activated nanoparticles that are 20,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair. Through the exceptional qualities, they were able to turn on and adjust the treatment to target the bacteria. Basically, they act like the familiar semiconductors.
According to lead author of the study, Prashant Nagpal, by shrinking down such particles to nanoscale, they were able to control the type of interactions between them and the bacteria. The light-activated nanoparticles, or quantum dots, remain inactive while in the dark. When exposed to light, they can take action and the wavelength can be adjusted by scientists so they may aim toward the bacteria cells.
Similar treatments have been developed in the past, using nanoparticles made of metal, such as gold or silver. They have proven themselves very effective against strains of harmful bacteria, but they arrived with unfortunate side effects. The treatment could run rampart, affecting and killing the healthy cells around. Quantum dots act differently, as they can be specifically adjusted to target only the damaged tissue.
In their trials, the light activated nanoparticles managed to successfully kill 92% of the lab-grown bacteria. This included strains of E. coli, salmonella, and Staphylococcus. Assistant professor Nagpal stated that while bacteria can adapt to common therapies, perhaps this can be countered by a similar treatment. The quantum dots can be likewise tailored for a specific infection.
The study’s findings opens the door for future trials and the possibility of a new approach regarding the antibiotic resistant superbugs. It can steer research in a different direction, one that has been seen to cause no side effects in patients.
As stated by co-author of the study, Anushree Chatterjee, failure is not an option. The issues with superbugs is growing more severe by the year, which is why a step forward in the technology is avidly needed. This could aid treatments in infections and other life-threatening diseases, such as cancer or HIV. The technology is moving faster and becoming more efficient, so, hopefully, an end to superbugs could be on the horizon.
Image source: medline.com