Bacteria shredding tech to fight drug-resistant superbugs

bacteria-fighting technologies
Golden Staph bacteria before (left) and after (right) exposure to the magnetic liquid metal nanoparticles. In the images, magnified 70,000 times, sharp pieces of liquid metal particle can be seen physically disrupting the bacteria after treatment.

Researchers have used liquid metals to develop new bacteria-destroying technology that could be the answer to the deadly problem of antibiotic resistance.

The technology uses nano-sized particles of magnetic liquid metal to shred bacteria and bacterial biofilm—the protective ‘house’ that bacteria thrive in—without harming good cells.

The research—published in ACS Nano, and led by a team from RMIT University, Melbourne—offers a groundbreaking new direction in the search for better bacteria-fighting technologies.

Antibiotic resistance is a major global health threat, causing at least 700,000 deaths a year. Without action, the death toll could rise to 10 million people a year by 2050, overtaking cancer as a cause of death.

The biggest issues are the spread of dangerous, drug-resistant superbugs and the growth of bacterial biofilm infections, which can no longer be treated with existing antibiotics.

“We’re heading to a post-antibiotic future, where common bacterial infections, minor injuries and routine surgeries could once again become deadly,” said Dr Aaron Elbourne, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Nanobiotechnology Laboratory at RMIT.

“It’s not enough to reduce antibiotic use, we need to completely rethink how we fight bacterial infections.

“Bacteria are incredibly adaptable and over time they develop defences to the chemicals used in antibiotics, but they have no way of dealing with a physical attack,” Dr Elbourne added.

“Our method uses precision-engineered liquid metals to physically rip bacteria to shreds and smash through the biofilm where bacteria live and multiply.

“With further development, we hope this technology could be the way to help make antibiotic resistance history.”


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