New tech for superbug fight
Australian researchers have used liquid metals to develop new bacteria-shredding technology.
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.
It offers an exciting 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.
Antibiotics have revolutionised health since they were discovered 90 years ago, but are losing effectiveness due to misuse.
The RMIT team behind the technology is the only group in the world investigating the antibacterial potential of magnetic liquid metal nanoparticles.
When exposed to a low-intensity magnetic field, these nano-sized droplets change shape and develop sharp edges
When the droplets are placed in contact with a bacterial biofilm, their movements and nano-sharp edges break down the biofilm and physically rupture the bacterial cells.
In the latest experiment, two bacterial biofilms were destroyed and 99 per cent of the bacteria were dead after 90 minutes of exposure.
Postdoctoral fellow Dr Vi Khanh Truong says the versatile technology could one day be used in a range of ways to treat infections.
“It could be used as a spray coating for implants, to make them powerfully antibacterial and reduce the high rates of infection for procedures like hip and knee replacements,” said Dr Truong.
“There’s also potential to develop this into an injectable treatment that could be used at the site of infection.”
The next stage for the research - testing the effectiveness of the technology in pre-clinical animal trials - is already underway, with the team hoping to move to clinical human trials in coming years.