Salmonella bacteria under a microscope. Photo by NIAID / Wikipedia.
(January 18, 2016) In the ever-escalating evolutionary battle with drug-resistant bacteria, humans may soon have a leg up thanks to adaptive, light-activated nanotherapy developed by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli and Staphylococcus infect some 2 million people and kill at least 23,000 people in the United States each year. Efforts to thwart these so-called “superbugs” have consistently fallen short due to the bacteria’s ability to rapidly adapt and develop immunity to common antibiotics such as penicillin.
New research from CU-Boulder, however, suggests that the solution to this big global problem might be to think small—very small.
In findings published today in the journal Nature Materials, researchers at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the BioFrontiers Institute describe new light-activated therapeutic nanoparticles known as “quantum dots.” The dots, which are about 20,000 times smaller than a human hair and resemble the tiny semiconductors used in consumer electronics, successfully killed 92 percent of drug-resistant bacterial cells in a lab-grown culture.